We have extensive experience representing a wide range of Wall Street and other financial services professionals and executives in the negotiation of employment and severance agreements and in FINRA arbitrations and other employment and partnership litigation. Our clients include investment banking and capital market professionals and executives at many of the leading domestic and international commercial and investment banks, securities firms, hedge funds, private equity firms and other financial institutions.
Financial services professionals face a number of unique issues in the employment law context. Amongst these issues are:
- Compensation Structure. The majority of their annual compensation is usually paid by means of incentive-compensation or bonuses with salary comprising a relatively small component of compensation. Frequently their incentive compensation arrangements vest substantial discretion in the employer in the awarding of annual incentive compensation after an initial “guarantee” period.
- Deferred Compensation. Substantial portions of their annual compensation are usually paid in the form of restricted equity or restricted cash which may be forfeited in the event of termination of employment and/or post-employment work for a competitor and may be subject to “claw-back” in the event of losses in future years.
- Contracts. Financial sector executives and professionals frequently have less formal “offer letters” and company-wide restricted equity plans as the governing legal documents relating to their compensation rights and post-employment restrictions instead of the more formal and detailed employment agreements that are common for executives in other sectors of the economy. However, the less formal nature of these documents does not lessen the importance of carefully negotiating protections and compensation guarantees before the documents are signed.
- Restrictive Covenants and Garden Leave. Financial sector professionals generally are subject to “Garden Leave” notice periods and post-employment restrictive covenants restricting their ability to immediately commence employment elsewhere and limiting or prohibiting post-employment solicitation of employees and clients of the former employer for a period of time.
- Mandatory Arbitration of Disputes. Employment contracts and securities licenses frequently require resolution of most compensation disputes through mandatory FINRA or other arbitration.
- Group Moves. The various factors outlined above present additional challenges in the context of group moves from one employer to another. For example, group leaders face potential claims that their participation in the solicitation and recruitment of other group members violated their employment agreements or common law prohibitions against disloyalty by current employees, and may result in forfeiture or retroactive claw-back of restricted equity or cash awards.