(Reuters) - Goldman Sachs Group Inc must pay $7.6 million to two Los Angeles brokers who said the company wrongfully terminated them, a securities arbitration panel ruled.
The brokers, Christopher Barra and Luis Sampedro, who worked as a team at Goldman for nine years until 2007, filed the case in 2010. The award, ordered on Friday by a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration panel, exceeds the $7 million the brokers had sought, according to the FINRA panel’s decision on Friday.
Barra and Sampedro now work for a unit of UBS AG.
“We do not believe that the law or the record remotely supports the finding on liability or the amount of damages awarded and we are considering our options, including an appeal,” a Goldman spokeswoman said.
The arbitration panel’s ruling includes $2 million in punitive damages, a rare type of sanction intended to punish and deter misconduct.
The two brokers alleged that Goldman forced them to forfeit deferred commissions upon their terminations, according to their lawyer, Rogge Dunn.
Goldman changed its compensation plan during their nine years at the company, requiring that a percentage of their commissions be held as restricted stock units that would vest over time. But Goldman fired the two before the stock vested, Dunn said.
Goldman’s forfeiture requirement violated California state law, the brokers alleged. “Unfortunately, a lot of (advisers) when they depart are leaving money on the table that they earned,” Dunn said.
The brokers also argued that Goldman violated federal law that protects employees who are in the military from workplace harassment and retaliation, according to the ruling.
Barra, a 47-year-old West Point graduate and lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves, alleged that a Goldman branch manager had “chastised and retaliated” against him for going on reserve duty in 2006, which required being away from the office. Goldman fired Barra and Sampedro in 2007, less than a year later.
The panel agreed that Goldman was liable under the law and ordered the company to pay Barra $100,000 for that violation as part of the $7.6 million award.
“We are proud of our programs for attracting and retaining veterans and we vigorously dispute the plaintiffs’ legal counsel calling our treatment of veterans into question,” the Goldman spokeswoman said.
The FINRA arbitrators, as is typical, did not explain the reasons for their decisions.
Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn; Additional reporting by Lauren Tara LaCapra