Former Merrill Lynch Broker Prevails on Defamation Claim and Wins Promissory Note Case.

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Roeser Bucheit & Graham wins FINRA arbitration on behalf of former Merrill Lynch broker defeating Merrill Lynch’s claims under a promissory note and prevailing on claims for defamation.

Employees have rights even when facing a highly financed employer.

On March 13, 2015 the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) issued an award in favor of former Merrill Lynch employee, Rene Espinoza, dismissing all of Merrill Lynch’s claims against him for breach of a promissory note and unjust enrichment. (Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith vs. Rene Espinoza FINRA No. 11-02987, March 13, 2015). The FINRA Award also found in favor of Espinoza on his claim for defamation.

In its statement of claim, Merrill Lynch alleged that Espinoza, who joined Merrill Lynch as a Financial Advisor in 2011, breached a promissory note and owed roughly $275,000 in principal and interest as well as attorney’s fees and costs of enforcing the note. In his response to the claims, Espinoza denied that he owed any money under the note and filed a claim against Merrill Lynch asserting that Merrill Lynch defamed him on the Form U-5 and wrongfully designated his termination as “for cause” to avoid paying amounts owed to him under his employment contract.

According to Espinoza’s lawyers at Roeser Bucheit & Graham LLC, they presented evidence over the course of a five day arbitration in support of its position that Merrill Lynch defamed Espinoza by insinuating that he had violated Merrill Lynch’s policies or acted dishonestly. As set forth in the Award, the Panel agreed with Espinoza concluding that “the evidence established that Merrill Lynch’s written policy was not violated” by Espinoza and that the evidence did not support the allegation that he acted dishonestly. (FINRA Award at p.3.) Accordingly, the FINRA panel determined that the reason for termination provided by Merrill Lynch was defamatory and ordered the U5 to be expunged with specific instructions. (FINRA Award at p. 4-5.) With respect to Merrill Lynch's claims under the promissory note, the panel denied those claims stating without further explanation that Merrill Lynch "recovers nothing on its claim and that the parties will bear their own costs and attorney's fees with respect to that claim." (FINRA Award at p.3.)

Espinoza’s lawyer, Peter Roeser, said that “what happened to Mr. Espinoza was simply wrong and I am pleased for Mr. Espinoza and his entire family that he was vindicated and can now move forward with an accurate and clean employment record.”    

Rene Espinoza is a Financial Advisor and Franchise Owner for Ameriprise Advisors in Tempe, Arizona. He has 17 years of experience and has earned industry accolades including the “Five Star Wealth Manager Award” in 2013 and 2014. For more information about Mr. Espinoza call 480.730.8700 or visit http://www.ameripriseadvisors.com/rene.espinoza.

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Peter Roeser
Roeser Bucheit & Graham LLC
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