Creative Representation | Expert Litigation

BartkoZankel Secures $3 Million Award in Bradford Shaffer v. Merrill Lynch Employment Dispute Arbitration

January 2011: BartkoZankel’s William I. Edlund and the late Allan N. Littman achieved a Final Award of $3,790,900 for claimant Bradford Shaffer in his JAMS arbitration against his former employer, Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated for violations of California law making anti-competition restraints illegal and interference with that law.

In August 2008, Shaffer left his employment as a Financial Advisor at Merrill’s San Francisco office. He was hired by UBS, Merrill Lynch’s competitor, and Shaffer was denied the funds in his Merrill Lynch Deferred Compensation Plans on grounds that he violated the non-compete clause in the Plans. After analysis, BartkoZankel quickly realized that these forfeiture provisions are illegal under § 16600 of California Business & Professions Code that voids any employment provision restricting an employee from freely entering into any line of work.

BartkoZankel contended that the forfeitures were illegal and void and that Merrill interfered by threats, intimidation, and coercion with Shaffer’s employment rights. After 6 months of rigorous discovery, including depositions and production of thousands of documents, Judge James L. Warren (Ret.) conducted the trial. The Arbitrator found Merrill Lynch had violated California law for decades, and had engaged in wrongful, oppressive, and fraudulent conduct. In addition to the $1.3 million Plan Awards, Shaffer was awarded $250,000 for emotional damages, $750,000 in punitive damages, and $1,164,100 in attorneys’ fees. After further opposition by Merrill Lynch, Judge Warren’s arbitration award was confirmed by U.S. District Judge Breyer on April 2011, with an award of attorneys’ fees, costs, pre‑judgment and post‑judgment interest.

View PDF of Verdict Summary.