Recently, a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration panel rendered a decision concerning Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC’s (Wells Fargo) claims against its former broker Steven Grundstedt (Grundstedt) for breach of three promissory notes. FINRA Arbitration Case No. 11-02245. The FINRA arbitration panel held that Grundstedt was entitled to an offset against the outstanding balance of the first promissory note dated July 30, 2008 because Wells Fargo, then Wachovia at the time, breached an implied contract and/or the covenant of good faith and fair dealing in the contracts Grundstedt signed, causing him substantial economic damage.
Wells Fargo claimed that Grundstedt failed to repay three separate forgivable promissory notes. Note 1 was in the principal amount of $320,000 and constituted a “transitional bonus” Grundstedt was rewarded with for moving his book of business from his former employer, Citigroup. Like the other notes in the litigation, the principal portion of Note 1 could be received in a lump sum or could be taken in monthly installments. In either case, the monthly re-payment of principal and interest was to be offset by the forgiveness of an equivalent amount conditioned upon Grundstedt’s continued employment with Wachovia’s.
According to the order, at the time Grundstedt accepted employment with Wachovia, he signed multiple agreements. One of these agreements promised Grundstedt that he would receive “support” from Wachovia including “re-assignment of accounts, walk-ins, prospective customer leads…” among other forms of company support. The panel found that Wachovia initially lived up to its promises but that the situation changed after Wachovia was acquired by Wells Fargo. In the fall of 2009, Wells Fargo consolidated operations, closed branches, and changed payouts and various other things designed with the intent to make the overall business more efficient and profitable.