Fired Merrill broker ordered to pay over $1 mln
* Merrill adviser fired after 8 months at firm
* Fired for attempting to inherit assets from client
* FINRA panel ordered him to repay more than $1 mln bonus
By Helen Kearney
NEW YORK, Jan 7 (Reuters) - A financial adviser fired by Merrill Lynch for alleged misconduct in 2009 has been ordered by an arbitration panel to repay more than $1 million of his recruiting bonus to the brokerage firm.
Charles Bishop worked for Merrill in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for eight months before being terminated in April 2009. The firm accused him of attempting to inherit assets from a client who had died, according to filings with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
Merrill Lynch, a unit of Bank of America Corp (BAC.N), requires advisers who are named by clients in their wills to inform the firm.
Bishop now has to repay $993,000 of the recruiting bonus that he received when he joined the firm in August 2008, plus interest at the rate of 3.95 percent from April 2009, according to the panel's ruling, posted on FINRA's website on Friday.
Bishop also has to pay $125,000 for Merrill's attorney fees.
"It's unusual for a FINRA panel to require an adviser to repay their whole recruitment award in a situation like this, unless his behavior really warranted it," said Thomas Lewis, an attorney at Stark & Stark who represents financial advisers.
After years of frenzied recruiting among brokerages attempting to outbid each for top advisers, those same firms are now aggressively seeking to recover any payments from advisers who leave prematurely, said Lewis.
Recruiting bonuses are typically structured as promissory notes that are forgiven over a number of years.
Prior to moving to Merrill Lynch, Bishop spent a decade at Morgan Stanley (MS.N), also in Fort Lauderdale, according to FINRA filings.
A Merrill Lynch spokesman said the firm was pleased with the decision.
Bishop's attorney, William Amlong of the Amlong Firm in Fort Lauderdale, did not immediately return calls for comment. (Reporting by Helen Kearney, editing by Matthew Lewis)
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