Former UBS Chicago Executive Sues to Kill $75K Arb Award Against Him
A former midwest regional director at UBS Wealth Management Americas isn’t giving up on his claim that the firm and senior executives discriminated against him when it demoted him to a “routine financial advisor” in June 2012.
In a lawsuit filed this week in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois’ eastern division, Robert Graham asked a judge to overturn a private arbitration decision in March that denied his age discrimination claim and awarded UBS $75,000 representing part of Graham’s signing bonus.
In his petition to overturn the JAMS arbitration award, Graham asserted that the unnamed arbitrator was biased in favor of UBS. At an informal meeting attended by lawyers for both sides, the arbitrator coached UBS’s lawyer on eliciting testimony that would “assist in defeating the retaliation claim,” according to the court petition.
Graham asserted in his initial arbitration claim that UBS division director Jason Chandler removed him as Midwest regional director and that Dennis Drescher—who replaced Graham as Midwest regional director—would not consider him for several open complex manager positions in retaliation for an age discrimination charge Graham had filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Graham’s age is not disclosed in the suit but he appears to be around 60, based on his undergraduate matriculation from St. John’s University in 1976 and his initial registration as a broker in 1980 with E.F. Hutton. The average age of all advisors in the U.S. securities industry is just over 51, according to a 2013 study from Cerulli Associates.
JAMS arbitration decisions are not published, but Graham’s legal petition repeats his argument that he was demoted on June 30, 2012, to a “routine financial advisor, under which he was to recruit and service clients, a role that Graham had not filled in over 25 years and for which he had no available assets under management.”
Graham and his lawyer, Stephen Boulton, did not respond to requests for comment.
UBS denied Graham’s discrimination and retaliation claims in the arbitration and filed a counterclaim, according to the lawsuit. The arbitrator found that no discrimination or retaliation occurred and ordered Graham to pay more than $75,000 that UBS sought in a counterclaim.
The amount likely represents the balance of a promissory note Graham signed when he was recruited by UBS as a Chicago-based manager in January 2009 after almost 25 years at Merrill Lynch, said a person familiar with the terms. The forgivable loan tied to the note totaled more than $2.5 million, and more than half had likely amortized by the time Graham left UBS in September 2013.
Chandler and Drescher, the UBS executives who testified in the arbitration, were themselves repositioned in the restructuring the broker-dealer unfurled this month. Chandler is shifting to become one of four divisional managers from his current role as one of the firm’s two wealth management advisor group heads. Drescher will become a market-area manager for branches in Chicago and Wisconsin.
Graham last month left Great Lakes & Atlantic Wealth Management Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm he cofounded with Craig Cmiel, a former UBS complex manager, according to a receptionist at the firm. Great Lakes manages around $200 million of client assets, according to a regulatory filing in May.