'Culture clash' led to $2.5 billion Merrill firing: Lawyer

An attorney for Marc Lowe said his client was discharged over flip-flops in the office and inappropriate language

Jul 24, 2015 @ 11:08 am

By Mason Braswell

A $2.5 billion Bank of America Merrill Lynch broker who was fired this month for “inappropriate workplace behavior,” according to employment records, may have been too bullheaded for the thundering herd, his attorney said.

Flip-flops in the office, some inappropriate comments at a Halloween party and cursing at management were all involved in the termination of Marc D. Lowe, said the attorney, Jeffrey Compton, of the firm Markun Zusman Freniere Compton.

“He was 20 years with Bank of America and there were never any issues,” Mr. Compton said. “He had a good team that was certainly very professional, but a bit more casual than the Merrill image.”

According to Mr. Compton, Mr. Lowe's issues started when new management came in about a year and a half ago to the team's Los Angeles office.

"Merrill moved a middle manager into his office to manage the legacy Bank of America folk," Mr. Compton said. "And I think that the culture clash led to most or all of this."

The first strike happened after Mr. Lowe wore flip-flops to the office, according to Mr. Lowe's account. He wore the flip-flops after foot surgery and at the recommendation of a doctor, but a manager told Mr. Lowe his wardrobe was “inappropriate,” Mr. Compton said.

The second infraction occurred at a Halloween party, he explained.

“Somebody came dressed as a stripper, and [Mr. Lowe] made a comment that the manager found to be inappropriate,” Mr. Compton said.

Lastly, Mr. Lowe decided to mouth off at the wrong people, including some Bank of America representatives who came to the office.

“At some point in a heated discussion, somebody overheard him swear, which led to a manager determining there was inappropriate conduct,” Mr. Compton said. “That's really the level of issues we're dealing with here.”

According to a Central Registration Depository Snapshot disclosure available through state securities regulators, Merrill Lynch said it fired Mr. Lowe for “conduct involving inappropriate workplace behavior, resulting in loss of management's confidence,” but did not elaborate.

A spokesman for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, William Halldin, declined to provide additional information, saying the firm does not comment on personnel matters.

Ron Edde, an industry recruiter with Millennium Career Advisors, said that firms are now drawing a tougher line about what kind of behavior they are willing to tolerate.

“The companies are all now taking a stance,” he said. “I don't think it's limited to Merrill. Someone does something that they don't like, they're not going to hesitate to cut them loose.”

Mr. Lowe has not yet found a new employer, Mr. Compton said.

He had previously worked on a team that managed about $2.5 billion in assets, according to their website. Mr. Lowe was personally listed as being in charge of about $5 billion in assets in a 2011 ranking of Barron's top advisers in California, where he placed 24th.

In discussing the move, recruiters said his partner, John Vilardo, was the senior manager on the team and likely oversaw a large portion of the assets. Mr. Vilardo and the other team members remain at Merrill Lynch.

Mr. Lowe worked with Banc of America Investment Services Inc. until he registered with Merrill Lynch in 2009, according to BrokerCheck.

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