ATLANTA, Feb. 26 LAWFUEL – Legal Newswire — H&R Block, Inc. NYSE: HRB and H&R Block Financial Advisors, Inc., the financial services unit of H&R Block, are liable to the former Chief Operating Officer of H&R Block Financial Advisors for breach of their contractual and severance obligations, according to a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration panel.
Former H&R Block Financial Advisors Executive Vice President & COO Thomas P. Fitzgerald alleged in arbitration proceedings that he was denied contractual compensation and severance benefits because he would not agree to a two-year non-compete restriction, which the firms attempted to force upon him. Such an unreasonable non-compete restriction was not required by his employment agreement or the firm’s severance plan, and violated Michigan law, Fitzgerald alleged.
The arbitrators found that H&R Block Financial Advisors and its parent H&R Block were liable to Fitzgerald and awarded him $3.96 million in damages. The award included $3.01 million in compensatory damages, $466,565 in interest, and $481,910 in attorneys’ fees.
J. Boyd Page, J. Steven Parker, and James A. Nofi of the Atlanta law firm Page Perry, LLC represented Fitzgerald in the hearing. The firm argued that: (i) H&R Block Financial Advisors and H&R Block withheld from Fitzgerald certain stock options that they were contractually obligated to pay him, and (ii) H&R Block Financial Advisors and H&R Block refused to pay Fitzgerald severance benefits as required by the terms of the company severance plan.
Witnesses who testified at the hearing included Mark Ernst, the former Chairman and CEO of H&R Block, Brian Nygaard, the former CEO of H&R Block Financial Advisors, Dave Andrew, the General Counsel of H&R Block Financial Advisors, Professor Maria O’Brien Hylton of the Boston University School of Law, and Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald said, “The award represents incentive compensation that was promised to me and which I earned. I am extremely pleased that it is a ‘make whole’ award for the amount that I am owed.”
Fitzgerald attorney J. Steven Parker said, “It has been a long and arduous proceeding. We are pleased that justice has been done. We are thankful that the arbitrators weighed all the evidence and reached a fair and just decision.”
The case is FINRA Dispute Resolution Arbitration No. 05-02411. The five-day arbitration hearing was held in the Detroit, Michigan area in November 2007.
Attorney Contacts: J. Boyd Page, J. Steven Parker and James A. Nofi, Page Perry, LLC, (770) 673-0047.
Media Contact: Erin Powers, Powers MediaWorks LLC, for Page Perry, LLC, (281) 362-1411 or (281) 703-6000.