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FINRA Arbitration Panel Hits Lincoln Financial With $2M Defamation Penalty

Financial Planning

In a rare move, a FINRA arbitration panel sided with a financial advisor who claimed his former firm, Lincoln Financial Advisors, defamed him after a firing, and ordered the firm to pay $2 million in damages.

Lincoln Financial Advisors had abruptly terminated Jeffrey Concepcion in August 2008, according to the arbitration filing, and then withheld severance after he refused to agree to a non-competition agreement.

The firm allegedly then published false and misleading information about why he left the firm, saying Concepcion had made a “career change,” according to the arbitration award document. The statement implied that Concepcion had left the industry altogether. Further, Lincoln Financial asserted that Concepcion had been terminated “with cause,” according to the document. A spokeswoman for Lincoln Financial declined to comment.

Concepcion, whose attorney did not return a call seeking comment, is currently a dually registered financial advisor affiliated with LPL Financial, according to FINRA BrokerCheck.

Negative attacks often ensue when advisors leave securities firms. That said, proving defamation, unfair competition and disrupting business relationships can be an uphill battle for reps, says Ryan Bakhtiari, a partner at Aidikoff, Uhl & Bakhtiari, a law firm in Beverly Hills, Calif.

“It seems clear that Mr. Concepcion was able to prove to a panel of arbitrators that the firm’s conduct caused him significant harm,” Bakhtiari says.

Before he was terminated, Concepcion had worked for Lincoln Financial, the planning division of Philadelphia-based Lincoln National, for more than 20 years, according to the arbitration award.