An advisor with growing political aspirations says his high-profile firm demanded he choose between working under its corporate banner and assuming public office.
Ultimately, alleges David Couch – now a former advisor with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney – the investment firm fired him after he assumed duties as a county supervisor in Fresno, Calf. He's now suing for $2m in damages.
The case has stirred debate in both the U.S. and Canada about what if any slack an investment firm should cut advisors who seek to win political office.
In Couch’s lawsuit, filed earlier this month, he argues that he was hired by the firm when he was already serving as a local councilman and with the express understanding that he would eventually run for higher office.
Morgan Stanley is declining to comment on the action.
Under both Canadian and U.S. law, employers are largely restricted from impinging on an employee’s political activities, if that work does not infringe upon their obligations.
Couch’s lawyer says the investment professional made extensive arrangements that would have seen his clients serviced in periods of his absence.
Morgan Stanley, the suit alleges, asked Couch to choose between his job with the firm and the elected position.
But at least one Toronto advisor thinks that firms must show advisors looking for political office the same considerations as anyone seeking a leave of absence.
“We all have different political philosophies," the 20-year industry veteran told WP. “IIROC and other regulators aren’t interested in that sort of thing and I don’t think firms or clients should be either as long as the advisor is doing the job properly.”
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