Fired JPMorgan Exec Says Integrity Cost Him

     PHILADELPHIA (CN) – JPMorgan Chase & Co. fired and defamed a top-level executive because he refused to scuttle the settlement of a housing-discrimination case on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, he claims in court.
     Mt. Holly Citizens in Action Inc. v. Township of Mount Holly stemmed from a plan by a New Jersey city to replace existing homes in a heavily minority, low-income neighborhood with significantly more expensive units.
     Before a November 2013 settlement killed its consideration of the case , the Supreme Court was preparing to decide whether disparate-impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act.
     Wayne Trotman, a Harvard and Oxford-educated former executive at JPMorgan, says the banking industry had a lot riding on that issue, since the high court could use the case to strike down a federal housing regulation “based on the theory that the Obama administration was aggressively using [it] to help poor minorities obtain equal lending opportunities.”
     Trotman figured into the Mt. Holly case though his role as director of The Reinvestment Fund, a nonprofit that offered to underwrite the settlement of the Mt. Holly litigation, according to his complaint in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. JPMorgan allegedly employed Trotman as its president and CEO of its “middle market business in the Mid-Atlantic market” since 2011.
     Suing JPMorgan for wrongful discharge, Trotman says his employer had been receptive to a “call to arms” issued that fall by Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota making a name for himself as a banking lobbyist who sought “a delay in the decision to fund the [Mt. Holly] settlement.”
     Pointing to the fiduciary duty he owed The Reinvestment Fund, Trotman allegedly “protested and refused to carry out senior-management directives to abuse his position … to scuttle [the] settlement.”
     JPMorgan’s associate general counsel, Matthew Biben, blithely responded by telling Trotman to do as he was sold since he “served [on TRF’s board] at Morgan’s pleasure,” according to the complaint.
     Biben is not a party to Trotman’s lawsuit, which names only JPMorgan as a defendant.
     Trotman’s complaint quotes an email Pawlenty purportedly sent JPMorgan and other banks about how “helpful” it would be if the banking executive on TRF’s board received a message “seeking a delay in the decision to fund the settlement.”
     “It will take years to get this issue again before the Supreme Court and the current court has expressed skepticism about how disparate impact laws are being applied,” Pawlenty wrote, according to Trotman’s complaint.
     Trotman says the settlement-funding vote went ahead as planned, and the Supreme Court dismissed the case two days later.
     “The banking industry was not pleased,” the complaint states.
     At Trotman’s next performance review, his yearly bonus was allegedly cut by $125,000, despite his having met performance expectations. Trotman also allegedly received “vague and unsupported” reports of negative feedback from his team members.
     During a September 2014 meeting with his immediate supervisor about his performance review, Trotman was told that he was “frequently out-of-pocket” and that senior management didn’t think he “was the proper person to lead the Mid-Atlantic market,” the complaint says.
     JPMorgan allegedly cited “position elimination” in firing Trotman two weeks later, but a senior banker at JPMorgan told executives with other banks later on that Trotman was fired for poor job performance, according to the suit.
     Trotman says the statement JPMorgan made about him “severely tarnished” his reputation in the financial services community, “falsely labeled him as professionally incompetent” and “virtually guaranteed that he will be unable to obtain comparable employment in the industry “
     JPMorgan spokesman Erich Timmerman said the bank plans to fight Trotman’s “baseless” claims.
     Trotman is represented by Patricia Pierce of Greenblatt, Pierce, Engle, Funt & Flores.

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