A Hennepin County jury has awarded former general counsel Chet Taylor $600,000 from the Feltl & Co. securities firm for defaming him by implying in a 2014 public statement that Taylor lost his job as a result of an enforcement action by a securities regulator.
Taylor asserted in his 2014 lawsuit that he left Feltl & Co. in good standing in 2012.
Feltl, following the jury verdict, also agreed to pay an additional $250,000 to avoid trying a subsequent punitive damages claim. The case was concluded with the damages settlement on Friday.
"This is a major step in restoring my reputation," Taylor said. "I left Feltl in 2012 simply to return to my solo law practice and I continued to represent [Feltl] for two years after that."
Thomas Steichen, general counsel of Feltl, said in a statement about resolution of the case: "The company believes it would have prevailed in an appeal. However, the company decided to resolve the matter because the claim is covered by insurance, and the resolution will avoid the cost and distraction of further litigation."
In a 2014 "corrective action" statement submitted to an industry regulator, Feltl said it "replaced the General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer, Head Trader and Branch Manager from the relevant period. The current Feltl employees occupying these positions will further enhance a culture of compliance at the firm."
Feltl said without naming Taylor that it had replaced him and the three other employees as a consequence of stock-trading infractions from 2008 to 2012, an episode that led the firm to a $1 million settlement with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
Taylor sued after Feltl refused to correct the "misrepresentations" by amending the corrective action statement Feltl submitted to FINRA in August 2014 that outlined steps to improve compliance, management oversight and other measures. The firm earlier had halted and exited a "penny-stock" trade-solicitation business that drew the sanctions.
Taylor is a veteran securities lawyer who worked for Feltl and a predecessor firm as an independent or in-house lawyer since 1990. Taylor said he left Feltl in good standing in 2012, over the protests of Feltl owners and senior managers.
He said he assisted Feltl in hiring an independent attorney with FINRA experience to represent the firm during the trading-violations investigation.