* 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 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
"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
A Merrill Lynch spokesman said the firm was pleased with
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)