Ian W. Jones, in a court filing Tuesday, rejected allegations by former employer Marco Consulting Group that he violated a contractual non-compete clause by soliciting clients he previously served following his April 14 resignation as president and senior investment consultant of the firm.
In an April 25 lawsuit against Mr. Jones and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, the parent of his new employer, Graystone Consulting, Marco alleged a “direct and willful breach of an employment agreement” barring Mr. Jones from contacting, soliciting business from or offering his services to his former clients at Marco for two years after his departure from the firm.
Tuesday's filing, however, said, “Jones has refrained from soliciting the business of any of the clients he previously serviced on behalf of Marco.”
Citing case history in Illinois, where Marco Consulting filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Chicago, the filing on behalf of Mr. Jones noted that providing such information as a former employee's new place of employment and contact information doesn't amount to soliciting business.
In a telephone interview, Christine Pollak, a spokeswoman for Graystone Consulting/Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, said: “We're disappointed that Marco has chosen to attempt to deprive clients of their right to choose the financial consultant that they believe will best assist them in meeting their obligations to their clients.”
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Jack Marco, chairman of Marco Consulting, said the facts to be presented in court will show Mr. Jones did much more than offer his forwarding address. And regardless of who reached out to whom, Mr. Jones' contract at Marco forbids him from offering his services to the clients he served at the firm for two years after his departure, Mr. Marco said.
Mr. Jones' filing notes that “Illinois courts have routinely upheld the right of an investment professional to announce his new business address to former clients, provide them with information if they request it, and provide services to clients who ask to transfer their accounts.”
In a telephone interview in late April, Mr. Marco noted that Morgan Stanley had quickly acquiesced to an “agreed order” restraining Mr. Jones and Graystone Consulting from having any contact with Mr. Jones' former clients for a period of two weeks.
On Wednesday, Ms. Pollak said her company did so “because we want to give the court the opportunity to hear our position and we're very confident we will prevail.”
A court hearing is scheduled next week.