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Ex-Merrill Lynch Associate Faces Legal Battle After Moving in with Client Prior to His Death

By Miriam Rozen April 10, 2019

A former Merrill Lynch client associate, when she worked at the wirehouse’s Anchorage, Alaska branch, developed a romantic relationship and lived with a client, John Snead, prior to his death in August 2017, according to a federal lawsuit filed this week by two of Snead’s adult children.

Prior to his death, when Snead’s health began deteriorating and he became incapacitated, the same associate, Guadalupe Wright, then still a Merrill employee, wrongfully withdrew funds from his accounts and transferred them to her accounts, the lawsuit alleges. She continued the transfers after his death, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit names as defendants Merrill and Wright, who worked for the wirehouse for 16 years until 2017, according to BrokerCheck.

Wright is no longer registered as a broker-dealer representative and she resides in Arizona. She has no disclosures of previous client disputes on her BrokerCheck profile.

A Merrill spokesperson declined to comment about the litigation. No one answered at a telephone number listed for Wright. Michael Corey, a lawyer with Anchorage’s Brena, Bell & Walker, who represents the plaintiffs, said about Wright and the late Snead: "We believe that they met at the Merrill Lynch office."

In the lawsuit, Snead’s two adult children allege Wright lacked authority and justification to withdraw and transfer the funds. The plaintiffs also allege Merrill was “legally obligated to properly hire, train, and supervise its employees, including Wright.”

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As a Merrill employee, Wright “exerted undue influence, wrongfully facilitated, and/or otherwise deceived [Snead] into making transactions that wrongfully caused funds to be transferred from the [two adult children and heirs] and each of them, to Wright,” the lawsuit alleges.

In their lawsuit, Snead’s adult children claim Merrill breached its fiduciary obligations, was negligent in its training of Wright, and has vicarious liability for Wright’s alleged actions.