Staten Island resident Michael Pellegrino worked for Morgan Stanley for four years, earning four performance awards from the company over a two year period, according to documents filed in federal court.
Pelligrino’s attorney Paul Liggieri said that his client was having his most successful year to date in 2016 when he was questioned about his business relationships with his Chasidic clientele by Evan Boucher, executive director for Morgan Stanley’s compliance department.
“It wasn’t unusual for a financial advisor to be asked about their clients, their backgrounds and previous business relationships to make sure that the rules of the SEC and FINRA are being followed, but my client was told to ‘stop chasing and doing business with those unicorns’ because ‘it would reflect badly on the company,’” Liggieri told VIN News.
Liggieri said that Pellegrino was stunned by the directive and, discounting Boucher’s remarks as nothing more an expression of personal bias, he continued serving his Chasidic client base who soon found their business inexplicably denied. Several months later, Pellegrino was fired and reportedly told he had been terminated because of his interactions with a particular client allegedly barred by Morgan Stanley because his inability to verify his identity created a possible risk to the company.
That client was Victor Hobson, a former linebacker for the New York Jets.
“My client never did business with Victor Hobson, who is the complete antithesis of a potential fraud threat,” said Liggieri. “They were clearly just looking for a way to get rid of my client.”
Pellegrino is suing both Morgan Stanley and Boucher for associational discrimination, saying that he was illegally targeted and fired. He also claims that the company froze all of his accounts with Morgan Stanley, ruining both his credit rating and his reputation.
“My client did nothing wrong,” said Liggieri. “He was discriminated against simply for trying to build clientele in the Jewish community. It is a shame that a company with the good reputation of Morgan Stanley would allow such acts to be committed in violation of federal, state and local law.”
Morgan Stanely did not immediately return a request for comment on the matter.