Former Major League Baseball player Douglas Mirabelli and his wife, Kristin Mirabelli, hit a home run in an arbitration dispute with Merrill Lynch this week when a panel ordered the firm to pay the couple more than $1.2 million.
The amount of the award, which was decided by a FINRA panel earlier this month, includes $800,219 in compensatory damages, plus 6% annual interest from July 26, 2010 until the award is paid. It also includes $47,340 in costs and $391,474 in attorneys’ fees. Other relief, including punitive damages, was denied.
The award came after the couple claimed that their income portfolio, comprised of equities pledged against Merrill Lynch-owned mortgages, suffered losses that resulted in their liquidation in late 2008.
The Mirabellis brought the case to arbitration in July 2010, claiming violation of securities acts in Michigan and Washington, negligence, breach of contract and fiduciary duty, as well as misrepresentation and omission. They requested $1 million in actual and compensatory damages, as well as unspecified compensation for other damages, fees and costs.
The Mirabellis’ accounts were managed by Merrill Lynch's Phil Scott Team in Bellevue, Wash. In the case summary, the claim named financial advisor Phil Scott for providing “inappropriate investment advice” for securities including Alliance Resource Partners, Apollo Investment Corp. and Copano Energy LLC. Scott was not named as a respondent in the case.
This is the third arbitration case involving Scott this year. Arbitrators ruled in favor of Scott in an August arbitration. Merrill Lynch is seeking to overturn a third $880,000 arbitration decision made in favor of other claimants in June.
“We disagree with the panel’s decision given the facts presented in this case,” Merrill Lynch Spokesman Bill Halldin said on Tuesday. “This account was handled properly during a very difficult time when the market experienced extreme volatility.”
John Miller, a lawyer representing the Mirabellis and partner at Kansas City law firm Swanson Midgley LLC, said it was a “complete reward” in response to the losses incurred to the bulk of the money the couple had invested with Merrill Lynch.
“The panel awarded all of the requested relief that the Mirabellis were seeking,” Miller said. “It’s unusual in securities arbitration for a customer to receive the full relief that’s requested including interest and reimbursement of their costs of proceeding. That makes the outcome particularly gratifying here.”
Mirabelli was a catcher for 11 MLB seasons, playing for the San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers and San Diego Padres.
Lorie Konish writes for On Wall Street.