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Articles Posted in Deferred Compensation

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On December 23, 2021, a team of seven former Credit Suisse investment advisers represented by Lax & Neville LLP won a $9.5 million FINRA arbitration award against Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC for unpaid deferred compensation. See Prezzano et al. vs. Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, FINRA No. 19-02974. This comes just weeks after another FINRA Panel awarded $9 million to a team of eight former Credit Suisse investment advisers represented by Lax & Neville. See Hutchinson et al. vs. Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLCFINRA No. 16-02825.

These teams are now among the numerous former Credit Suisse advisors who have successfully brought claims for their portion of the over $200 million of deferred compensation that Credit Suisse refused to pay its advisors when it closed its US private bank in 2015, violating the advisers’ employment agreements and the firm’s own deferred compensation plans. The advisors were terminated without cause when the firm closed its US private bank. As it did with respect to almost every one of more than 300 advisers, and in each and every one of the deferred compensation cases filed against it, Credit Suisse took the position that the advisors voluntarily resigned and forfeited their earned deferred compensation when Credit Suisse closed their branches and eliminated their positions. The FINRA Panels unanimously found that Credit Suisse terminated each of the advisors without cause, breached their employment agreements, and violated their respective states’ labor laws.

Nine arbitrations have gone to award thus far, including seven brought by Lax & Neville LLP. See Prezzano et al. vs. Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, FINRA No. 19-02974, Hutchinson et al. vs. Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLCFINRA No. 16-02825Galli, et al. v. Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLCFINRA No. 17-01489DellaRusso and Sullivan v. Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLCFINRA No. 17-01406Lerner and Winderbaum v. Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLCFINRA No. 17-00057Finn v. Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLCFINRA No. 17-01277; and Chilton v. Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLCFINRA No. 16-03065. All nine FINRA arbitration panels, three New York Supreme Court Commercial Division Judges (Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC v. Finn, Index No. 655870/2018 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2019); Lerner and Winderbaum v. Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, Index No. 652771/2019 (N.Y. Sup. Ct.), Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC v. DellaRusso and Sullivan, Index No. 657268/2019 (N.Y. Sup. Ct.)), and a unanimous panel of the New York Appellate Division have found for the advisers and ordered Credit Suisse to pay the deferred compensation it owes them.

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On August 31, 2020, the Massachusetts Superior Court confirmed a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) Arbitration Award against Credit Suisse for more than $2 million owed to four former Credit Suisse advisors represented by Lax & Neville LLP, including approximately $1.6 million in unlawfully withheld deferred compensation, more than $83,000 in costs and more than $411,000 in attorneys’ fees.

The former Credit Suisse advisors sued Credit Suisse for, among other things, violations of the Massachusetts Wage Act, breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and unjust enrichment after it closed its U.S. wealth management business on October 20, 2015 and unlawfully cancelled their earned deferred compensation.  On February 14, 2020, a three-member FINRA Arbitration Panel found for the advisers and ordered Credit Suisse to pay compensatory damages totaling $1,602,609.95 plus costs, interest and attorneys’ fees.

Credit Suisse petitioned the Court to vacate in part or modify the Award, challenging the Panel’s authority to award attorneys’ fees on the basis that the advisors had no contractual right to attorneys’ fees and that Credit Suisse did not agree to submit the issue of attorneys’ fees to the Panel.  In rejecting Credit Suisse’s petition and refusing to modify or vacate the Award, the Court held that Credit Suisse itself had originally submitted a request for attorneys’ fees against its four former advisers, giving the Panel the authority it needed to award attorneys’ fees.  Under New York law, which governed the parties’ agreements, a mutual request for attorneys’ fees forms a binding contract between the parties and authorizes a Panel to award attorneys’ fees.  The Court further noted that given Credit Suisse’s many losses in the Credit Suisse Deferred Compensation Arbitrations, its surprise at, and defense to, the Panel’s award of attorneys’ fees when both parties had requested them was unreasonable, stating that the “theory should have come as no surprise to Credit Suisse, which had already been required to pay the attorney’s [sic] fee of the prevailing party in another arbitration,” referencing the $585,307 in compensatory damages, $131,694 in interest and $146,326 in attorneys’ fees awarded to Brian Chilton, another former Credit Suisse financial advisor represented by Lax & Neville LLP.  Another $1.34 million in attorneys’ fees were also awarded to former Credit Suisse advisors Joseph Lerner and Anna Winderbaum and Richard DellaRusso and Mark Sullivan, all of whom were represented by Lax & Neville LLP, as well as Christian Cram, Andrew Firstman and Mark Horncastle.

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