Transitions, Retire-in-Place Programs and Termination: A Top Attorney’s Perspective

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Mindy Diamond

A conversation with Tom Lewis, Certified Civil Trial Attorney at Stevens & Lee

There’s no doubt that changing firms or models is a complex process. And even the thought of doing so often brings advisors to their knees with concerns over everything from portability to Protocol—and all that lies in between.

Yet it’s the contractual obligations advisors may have to their firms that drive the most anxiety—and rightfully so.­

Attorneys tell us they’re getting an “avalanche” of outreach from advisors wanting to make sure that their employment agreements don’t bind them further to their firm.

It’s an issue we’re seeing more and more of in recent years, as the wirehouses work harder to retain their top talent.

Take, for example, retire-in-place programs—also known as “succession” or “sunset” plans.

Almost every major firm has its own version, which allows senior advisors to retire, transfer their business to the next gen and monetize in place. These programs – such as Merrill’s CTP, UBS ALFA and Morgan Stanley’s FFAP – can be compelling for senior advisors who have every intention of retiring from their firm and being rewarded for their life’s work.

Yet many advisors are finding that there are clauses and restrictions that further tie them and their next gen to the firm—limiting any optionality for now and in the future.

Add to that an increasingly hyper-vigilant compliance environment, where advisors are feeling increasingly vulnerable and worried about possible termination.

The reality is that whether you’re considering changing firms or not, there are plenty of potential landmines that all advisors need to be aware of.

To shed some light on the key areas that advisors should be most concerned about, Tom Lewis, a Board-Certified Civil Trial Attorney at Stevens & Lee based in Princeton NJ, joins the show.

Tom specializes in employment litigation and advisor transitions—and has firsthand knowledge of the ins and outs of advisor transitions, retire-in-place programs, and termination—all hot topics in today’s evolved wealth management landscape.

In this episode, he and Mindy discuss:

  • What’s behind the uptick in advisor movement—and the impact of the pandemic coupled with the growing restrictive nature of firms is causing many top advisors to consider their options.
  • How Protocol and non-Protocol transitions differ—and while non-Protocol might take a bit more time and effort, moves have been successful, nonetheless.
  • What he sees as the real benefits of retire-in-place programs—and what both senior and next gen advisors need to be aware of before signing these restrictive and binding agreements.
  • What’s driving the recent wave of terminations for “internal acts”—and what advisors need to be aware of to make themselves less vulnerable.

As Tom shares, “advisors should always operate with their eyes wide open.” That will help keep problems at bay, and also enable you to be available to opportunities as they present themselves.

It’s an episode filled with priceless information for every advisor—whether you’re considering a move or not.




Tom Lewis:

Tom Lewis, of Stevens & Lee,  concentrates his practice in employment advisory and trial litigation, arbitration, mediation and employment counseling. He is a Board-certified Civil Trial Attorney by the New Jersey Supreme Court Board on Attorney Certification.

Tom represents financial services and other companies and their executives in employment disputes and litigation, including restrictive covenant issues, non-compete agreements, claims of harassment, workplace discrimination, wrongful discharge, raiding and recruiting issues, employment agreements and severance agreements. He has litigated and arbitrated cases in numerous states and jurisdictions, and regularly appears in state and federal courts and before FINRA, the EEOC and various state civil rights agencies. He also litigates restrictive covenant issues on behalf of individuals, medical practitioners, small to mid-sized companies and Fortune 500 companies. His clients are located throughout the United States.

Because of his extensive experience in employment litigation, Tom has been an invited media commentator for CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox News, WOR, UPN News, CNBC, Bloomberg Television, Bloomberg News, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, On Wall Street, Dow Jones, REP. magazine (formerly Registered Representative), The Associated Press, The New Jersey Law Journal, New Jersey Lawyer, The National Law Journal and various other mass media business forums. Additionally, he has published many articles covering a broad range of employment issues. Several of Tom’s cases have resulted in published opinions by federal and state courts and the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Tom frequently conducts seminars for corporate clients, management organizations and bar associations, and has lectured and presented seminars on behalf of the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education, including “Current Issues Involving Non-Compete Agreements,” “Protection of Trade Secrets” and the “Duty of Loyalty.”

As published in New Jersey Monthly, Tom has been recognized as a New Jersey Super Lawyer repeatedly since 2005, having been selected by his peers as among the top 5 percent of lawyers in the state. He is AV®Preeminent™ rated by LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and general ethics. Tom is also among only 187 lawyers nationwide to be selected for excellence in client service with a 2015 Client Choice award, based on feedback from senior in-house counsel.

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