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Regulation and Compliance > Litigation

Veteran Advisor Sues J.P. Morgan After Jumping to the Firm From Merrill

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What You Need to Know

  • Gwen Campbell left Merrill for J.P. Morgan Wealth Management with her $1.1 billion team in October 2020.
  • Campbell alleges in a complaint that the firm's Private Bank has been trying to poach her clients.
  • J.P. Morgan denies the allegations.

A veteran advisor and broker who jumped with her $1.1 billion group from Merrill Lynch to J.P. Morgan in October 2020 has sued her current firm, alleging its Private Bank division has been aggressively trying to steal her clients.

In a complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, Gwen Campbell, managing director of The Campbell Group at J.P. Morgan Wealth Management, said her action arises from “ongoing efforts by J.P. Morgan Private Bank … to poach” her relationships with her advisory clients after she moved from Merrill.

“After J.P. Morgan aggressively recruited Campbell and persuaded her to move her clients with explicit contractual promises they would not be poached by other groups at the bank, the Private Bank began ruthlessly soliciting her clients, disparaging her, and preventing clients from sending assets to Campbell (and redirecting them to the Private Bank) without her consent,” the complaint alleged.

And it has only gotten worse, according to the complaint. “In recent weeks, the Private Bank has significantly escalated its attacks on Campbell’s client relationships and thwarted her ability to execute client transactions while, after months of promising to make things right, Campbell’s superiors at J.P. Morgan have conceded that they are powerless to help,” the complaint alleged.

Due to the “misrepresentations and breaches” by J.P. Morgan, Campbell is “suffering irreparable harm to her business, her reputation, and the client goodwill that has taken her decades to build,” the complaint alleged.

“This is exactly the type of harm to client relationships and reputation that Campbell’s employment agreement — drafted by J.P. Morgan — explicitly acknowledges ‘causes immediate and irreparable injury’ that “cannot be adequately remedied by monetary damages,” according to the complaint.

Campbell is seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction enjoining J.P. Morgan from continuing with the conduct in question “until such time as the parties’ rights are resolved in arbitration.”

J.P. Morgan’s Response

“These claims have no merit and we look forward to presenting the facts to the Court,” a J.P. Morgan spokeswoman told ThinkAdvisor by email on Friday. “All our clients have access to our world class solutions platform and the choice of the advisor they want to work with. This advisor did not lose any clients while working here.”

In a response to the complaint that was filed at the court on Friday, attorneys at Sanchez & Amador, who are representing J.P. Morgan, said: “Plaintiff cannot show irreparable harm or a likelihood of success on the merits. As such, JPMorgan respectfully requests that the Court deny Plaintiff’s request for injunctive relief.”

J.P. Morgan alleged:

  • The advisor failed to identify a single lost client or any net loss in her total assets under management.
  • The advisor admitted the three clients she identified all had preexisting relationships with the firm’s Private Bank.
  • The advisor omitted that her frequent unresponsiveness to her colleagues at the firm were the source of a lot of her frustration and confusion.
  • The advisor’s “intentional misconduct” claims are belied by her admissions, and in fact her clients have benefitted from J.P. Morgan’s specialized resources.
  • The advisor conceded that J.P. Morgan granted her request to work from home.
  • The advisor was often “unresponsive” to tech support’s efforts to assist her and frequently let her passwords expire or sometimes entered the wrong dual authentication code, which kept her locked out of the system.