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Broker Wins $1.6 M in Merrill Arbitration

Posted Jul 23, 2007 7:30 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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An NASD securities arbitration panel has awarded $1.6 million to a broker of Iranian descent, saying that Merrill Lynch & Co. first set him up to be fired and then lied about him in an industry regulatory form, making him unemployable.

The panel issued an unusually detailed eight-page decision explaining its award of $400,000 in compensatory damages and $1.2 million in punitive damages to Fariborz Todd Zojaji, reports the Wall Street Journal. An internal investigation by the brokerage of Zojaji's complaints, the document says, was "so reckless and wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard and indifference to the rights of claimant."

Zojaji, an Iranian-born Muslim who had emigrated to the U.S. with his parents, was on a management track at Merrill's offices in Miami but his career progress screeched to an abrupt halt after Sept. 11, 2001, when a manager found out about his ethnicity at lunch, according to arbitrators. "Claimant was reduced from management," the panel wrote in its opinion, "and basically sent to a corner to eventually be terminated." He was fired in 2004.

Says a spokesman for the brokerage: "We approached this matter in good faith. We regret the panel didn't view the evidence in the same light we did."

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