Interdealer broker firm ICAP Securities USA LLC has been ordered to pay one of its former brokers $643,500 plus interest to a former broker who sought more than $75 million in damages from the firm.
The decision came from a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA, panel on June 22.
Former employees Joseph Bellantuono, who served as a broker at ICAP for more than six years until September 2008, and Anthony Gusmano, a former mortgage backed securities desk clerk, first filed their claim against the firm in February 2009.
At the time, they alleged wrongful termination, failure to pay compensation and defamation on Bellantuono’s Form U5, which is used to register and terminate a broker’s registration with firms.
Bellantuono is tied to a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into ICAP that the firm ultimately settled in December 2009. The investigation looked into certain activities that took place at its mortgage backed securities desk between 2005 and 2008. As a result of those activities, ICAP suspended two employees in June 2008, and then subsequently terminated them for violating firm policies. Bellantuono was one of those two individuals, a source familiar with the situation said.
The FINRA arbitration panel awarded Bellantuono $643,500 in compensatory damages, plus 5.5% annual interest until the award is paid.
At the same time, the panel denied Bellantuono’s request to erase the language from his U5. That language reads “Violation of company’s policies and procedures relating to certain broking and related practices.”
All other requests, including Gusmano’s claims, were denied by the FINRA panel. ICAP’s counterclaims were also denied.
"We're very pleased with the outcome of the arbitration,” an ICAP spokesperson said.
Thompson Wigdor LLP Partner Doug Wigdor, who represented Bellantuono and Gusmano in the case, said Bellantuono was exonerated in the SEC investigation while other ICAP employees were not. ICAP was not immediately available for comment on that point.
The decision came after the former employees and ICAP traded claims and counterclaims throughout the proceedings that spanned from 2009 to this year.
At the close of the hearing, Bellantuono and Gusmano requested almost $75 million from ICAP. That included $26.26 million for defamation and wrongful termination, $25 million in punitive damages, $15 million in compensatory damages for emotional distress and reputational damages, $8.17 million in damages for breach of contract and $550,000 in damages for the violation of the N.J. wage payment law, as well as unspecified sanctions, attorneys’ fees and costs.
That came after Bellantuono and Gusmano’s earlier requests for at least $612,000 plus interest for unpaid compensation from 2008.
At that time, Bellantuono also asked for damages from the defamation on his U5 and wrongful termination of his employment, unspecified attorneys’ fees, costs, damages and interest. Bellantuono’s annual compensation was about $2.5 million.
Among ICAP’s counterclaims in the arbitration include a request for reimbursement and compensation for fines and penalties that came out of that SEC investigation. ICAP also asked for unspecified reimbursement for losses or financial harm that came from the violations, as well as compensatory damages, attorneys’ and forum fees, among other relief.
In its initial counterclaim, ICAP charged that the former employees had breached their employment agreement, covenant of good faith and fair dealing and fiduciary duty.
ICAP also claimed that Bellantuono and Gusmano had obtained unjust enrichment, contribution and indemnification.