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Current Developments in the Commercial Divisions of the
New York State Courts
Posted: June 6, 2014

SECOND UPDATE: Guest Post: New York County Commercial Division Grants TRO Enforcing Restrictive Covenants Pending FINRA Arbitration with Departing Employees

On June 3, 2014, we posted about dueling requests for “emergency” interim relief in a dispute concerning a Deutsche Bank investment advisory team joining the investment advisory and private wealth management firm HPM Partners. Here is an update:

There has been little rest for the lawyers engaged in the battle over non-compete clauses and other restrictive covenants allegedly covering Deutsche Bank’s departing discretionary portfolio management team. Last Friday, Justice Marcy Friedman entered a TRO enforcing post-employment restrictive covenants against six departing Deutsche Bank employees, including Benjamin Pace, formerly Deutsche Bank’s chief investment officer for wealth management in the Americas. On Tuesday morning, Pace sought interim vacatur of that TRO (insofar as it applied to him personally) by application to the First Department. Pace’s brief to the First Department (available here) relies principally on the absence of any restrictive covenants from his written employment agreement with Deutsche Bank predecessor, Bankers’ Trust. Pace evidently never signed any agreement directly with Deutsche Bank, and insists that the restrictive covenants contained in Deutsche Bank’s employee handbook are unenforceable because the handbook, by its own terms, does not create a binding contract of employment.

Justice Leland DeGrasse granted Pace’s request for emergency interim relief from the TRO. The order is merely an endorsement on Pace’s application for interim relief and does not set forth any reasoning (or effect any defendant other than Pace himself). The order is here. Justice DeGrasse’s vacatur of the TRO as to Pace seems to accept at least implicitly that covenants in written employment agreements are to be distinguished from those contained in employee handbooks — at least where, as here, the handbook contains disclaimer language to the effect that it does not create a written contract of employment.

This guest post was written by Isaac B. Zaur of Clarick Gueron Reisbaum LLP.

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