On October 10, 2018, a former Credit Suisse investment adviser represented by Lax & Neville LLP, a leading securities and employment law firm, won a FINRA arbitration award against Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC for unpaid deferred compensation. The claimant, Brian Chilton, was an adviser in Credit Suisse’s US private banking division (“PBUSA”) and was terminated when Credit Suisse closed PBUSA. As it did with hundreds of his colleagues, Credit Suisse took the position that Mr. Chilton voluntarily resigned and forfeited his deferred compensation. A highly sophisticated and experienced three arbitrator panel determined that Credit Suisse terminated Mr. Chilton without cause and awarded him all of his deferred compensation, consisting of 39,980 shares of Credit Suisse AG valued as of the date of his termination at $585,307.20. The Panel ordered Credit Suisse to pay interest of $131,694.12, attorneys’ fees of $146,326.80, and 100% of the FINRA forum fees, totaling $69,750.00. The Panel also recommended expungement of Mr. Chilton’s Form U-5, the termination notice a broker-dealer is required to file with FINRA. Credit Suisse had falsely reported that Mr. Chilton’s “Reason for Termination” was “Voluntary,” i.e. that Mr. Chilton resigned. The Panel recommended that the “Reason for Termination” be changed to “terminated without cause.” To view this Award, Brian Chilton v. Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, FINRA Case No. 16-03065.
Credit Suisse announced it was closing PBUSA on October 20, 2015. Dozens of its former advisers have subsequently filed FINRA Arbitration claims for their unpaid deferred compensation. The claims are based upon unambiguous language in Credit Suisse’s contracts providing that deferred compensation awards vest immediately upon termination without cause. In a transparent attempt to evade its deferred compensation liabilities, which amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars, Credit Suisse deliberately mischaracterized its advisers’ terminations as voluntary resignations, notwithstanding that it had announced it was closing PBUSA, told its employees, including the advisers, to find someplace else to work and told its clients to close their accounts. In its Form U-5 filings, Credit Suisse misrepresented to its regulator that the advisers had voluntarily resigned.
The Chilton Panel was the first to reach a decision on this issue and found that Mr. Chilton’s Form U-5 filing was false and should be changed to termination without cause. Under the unambiguous terms of Credit Suisse’s contracts, Mr. Chilton was therefore entitled to his deferred compensation.