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Why UBS's Non-Solicitation Clause Move Might Just Be the Beginning

February 26, 2018

Experts say UBS’s recent inclusion of a non-solicitation clause in agreements tied to its reps’ bonus payouts was a sneaky move — and that other wealth management firms could follow suit, InvestmentNews writes. But UBS has since modified the language in response to the “constructive feedback” of its reps, AdvisorHub writes.

Last week, UBS Financial Services added language into agreements tied to brokers’ 2017 bonuses banning them from soliciting clients for 12 months after leaving the firm. The decision comes a few months after the wirehouse opted to withdraw from the Protocol for Broker Recruiting, which allows departing advisors to take some client information with them without threat of a lawsuit. Now UBS brokers breaking the new agreement could face arbitration claims and lawsuits — and some reps have told AdvisorHub that many reps may simply miss the new clause.

Tom Naratil, co-president of UBS Global Wealth Management, and Brian Hull, head of UBS Wealth Management Americas, quickly organized a conference call for most of the firm’s 6,800 reps apologizing for slipping in the non-solicitation language without drawing reps’ attention to it, according to the industry news website. And while they said brokers who want to retract their signatures may do so, Naratil and Hull also affirmed UBS is going through with the ban on client solicitations, AdvisorHub writes. However, shortly after the call, Naratil and Hull sent out an email thanking the reps who piped in on its decision and announcing that the 2017 bonus agreements will revert back to the original language, according to the website. However, the email also said that the non-solicitation clause will be part of the 2018 bonus agreements UBS will distribute next February, AdvisorHub writes, citing the email.

And other firms may follow suit, InvestmentNews writes.

“This is possibly the opening salvo in a war for clients,” Andrew Stoltmann, a securities lawyer who’s also president of the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association, tells the publication. “I’d be surprised if we didn’t see a proliferation of these kinds of non-solicitation agreements now that this is out there.”

Tom Naratil

Adam Gana, a securities lawyer and managing partner at the law firm Gana LLP, tells InvestmentNews UBS's adding the non-solicitation clause “is taking us back to the dark ages of advisory services,” and that it could create a “domino effect” in the wealth management industry.

Morgan Stanley, the first large firm to pull out of the broker protocol, declined comment to the publication. Citigroup Global Markets, the other company to withdraw from the industry accord, couldn’t be reached for comment, InvestmentNews writes.

By Alex Padalka
  • To read the InvestmentNews article cited in this story, click here.
  • To read the AdvisorHub article cited in this story, click here.
  • To read the AdvisorHub article cited in this story, click here.