Our branch banker client was terminated by a major multinational bank and financial services company after reporting wrongful conduct to her supervisors. As an employee at will without the protections of an employment contract, she felt very alone and vulnerable. However, as we learned the facts we came to feel that she had a good claim for wrongful termination as a whistleblower.
The wrongful conduct the banker had reported included a forgery and improper banking practices which potentially subjected the bank to scrutiny from federal and state banking regulators. As a result, the banker found herself the subject of a bank internal investigation. Bank investigators and high-level management employees combed through the banker’s transaction history in an effort to gain leverage to discredit her claims against the bank and to terminate her employment. Regional management, human resources and risk management personnel all conspired to bury the banker and her claims as they fabricated a pretextual reason for her termination. Contemporaneously with her firing, the banker was warned, if not threatened, about the power the bank had to harm her. As if to prove the point, the investment advisor arm of the bank filed an improper Form U-5 with securities industry regulatory authorities with the intent of keeping the banker out of the business for good.
After preliminary discussions with the bank’s general counsel ended in an immediate impasse, we sued the bank and the investment advisor. In addition to the whistleblower claims, we brought claims for breach of contract, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, equitable estoppel, emotional distress, wrongful discharge (selective enforcement), defamation/libel and a mandatory injunction in connection with the filing of a false U-5. We sought compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $10,000,000.
Dealing with a multination bank with unlimited resources and an incentive to destroy its adversary, we had to be smart, efficient, and bold. We set an ambitious pre-trial schedule with the court and bombarded the bank with discovery demands. We engaged in and won multiple discovery battles, including obtaining cost-shifting in some instances. We aggressively sought sensitive documents and access to high level bank employees. Prior to the close of discovery, we had taken no less than 10 depositions.
Our patience, resolve, and determination paid off. We extracted significant admissions from bank personnel during discovery and quashed critical third-party subpoenas. Our aggressive posture and the bank’s inability to comply with our discovery demands led to a settlement conference. Our wins on discovery issues earned us a high level of credibility with the federal magistrate judge. As a result, and in response to our compelling presentation at the settlement conference, he all but ordered the bank to resolve the matter in a way that was acceptable and highly favorable to our client.