Wells Fargo must pay $1.2 million to fired broker

Mon Jun 25, 2012 2:37pm EDT
 
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By Ashley Lau

(Reuters) - A division of Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N: Quote) must pay $1.2 million to a former broker after an arbitration panel ruled that the firm wrongfully denied him deferred compensation he had earned before he was fired for abusing the company's email system.

Six weeks before Raymond John Kowalewski was to receive a deferred compensation award, the Atlanta-based adviser was fired for sending emails containing "racial language" and forwarding "naked pictures" through Wells' computer system, his lawyer Charles Dalziel said in an interview on Monday.

Dalziel said that while several other people in the office had also sent such emails, they were not fired.

Kowalewski alleged breach of contract and tortious interference with property, among other claims, in his assertion that he had the right to payments from certain awards.

"There was paperwork that congratulated him for earning those at the time," said Dalziel, referring to awards Kowalewski earned from his days at Wachovia Securities and Prudential Securities, where he had been since 1983. Wachovia merged with Prudential in 2003, and Wells acquired Wachovia in 2008.

A Wells Fargo spokesman declined to comment on the arbitration panel ruling.

Wells Fargo had requested that the statement of claim "be denied in its entirety" and that all costs and attorneys' fees be paid by Kowalewski, according to the arbitration award.

The award included compensatory damages for deferred compensation programs from both Prudential and Wachovia, as well as a retention award allotted after Wells' merger. Kowalewski also received compensation for health insurance damages, but the panel denied his requests for punitive damages and attorneys' fees.

Wells Fargo Advisors, the St. Louis-based brokerage business of Wells Fargo & Co, is the third largest U.S. brokerage with about $1.2 trillion in client assets under management.

(Reporting By Ashley Lau in New York; editing by John Wallace)