This month, the Texas Court of Appeals concluded that two ex-Stanford Group Co financial advisers must arbitrate state labor law claims that their former employer constructively discharged them for complaining about its unethical business practices. The appeals court’s decision reverses a lower court’s ruling to not compel arbitration.
According to Chief Justice Hedges, former Stanford advisers Charles W. Rawl and D. Mark Tidwell signed U-4 registration applications that had arbitration provisions. The promissory notes they executed that were payable to Stanford also came with arbitration provisions.
While they worked for Stanford, the two men allegedly discovered that the company engaged in several unethical and illegal business practices, such as the deletion of certain electronic data in the wake of a Securities and Exchange Commission probe and the inflation of certain asset values in order to mislead potential customers. Tidwell and Rawl contend that they told management to investigate the alleged illegal activities, but their requests were ignored. The two advisers then resigned from the company because they thought they could be implicated for the alleged illegal activities.
After they left the firm, Stanford began FINRA arbitration proceedings against the two men to collect on promissory notes that allegedly were due to be paid as soon as they resigned. The former advisers responded by filing an employment discrimination lawsuit. They claim that their constructive discharge violates the Texas Labor Code because they refused to participate in Stanford’s alleged illegal acts. They also maintained that Stanford’s behavior was actionable under Sabine Pilot Services Inc. v. Houck, 687 S.W.2d 733 (Tex. 1985).
Stanford’s response was a motion to compel arbitration. The two men then said that under FINRA Rule 13201, their employment claims were excluded from arbitration.
The appeals court says that although the Texas labor code prohibits employment discrimination, the plaintiffs failed to note that their discrimination was based on any protected classes named in the statute. As a result, Judge Hedges said the trial court was in error when it did not compel arbitration.
According to Shepherd Smith Edwards & Kantas LTD LLP Cofounder and Securities Arbitration Attorney WIlliam Shepherd, “The key on this one is that registered securities representatives must go to securities arbitration and can not take employment cases to court despite language securities arbitration code concerning statutory labor claims in the Texas Labor Code. Our securities arbitration law firm often represents such persons against their employer or former employer.”
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