Four bankers fired by Perella Weinberg Partners LP sued the firm for wrongful termination three months after they were said to be dismissed for trying to strike out on their own.
Michael Kramer and three other members of Perella’s restructuring-advisory group were fired for allegedly breaking employment agreements when they attempted to form their own firm, people familiar with the matter said in February.
“The case stems from Perella Weinberg’s improper termination for cause and the firm’s withholding of about $60 million in deferred compensation and equity to which plaintiffs are entitled,” the four bankers said in their lawsuit filed Thursday in New York state court in Manhattan.
The bankers are seeking damages and a declaration that their firings were invalid and that restrictions the firm seeks to place on them are void. They claim breach of contract, defamation and interfering with their “prospective business advantage,” according to the court filing.
Kramer, Derron Slonecker, Joshua Scherer and Adam Verost were fired after they approached the investment bank to discuss a departure that would lead to them starting an advisory-services firm, according to a person who in February asked not to be identified because the matter was private.
“We stand by our decision to terminate these employees for cause,” Kara Findlay, a spokeswoman for New York-based Perella Weinberg, said in a statement.
The asset-management and advisory firm terminated the men for “violating their partnership and employment agreements,” according to a memo sent to employees, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News. It didn’t provide other details.
“As you know, trust is the foundation of our business and we believe they fundamentally breached both our trust and our agreements,” Peter Weinberg, co-founder and head of the firm’s advisory business, wrote in the Feb. 17 note.
Lisa C. Solbakken, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Perella Weinberg bought Kramer’s investment-banking firm, Stamford, Connecticut-based Kramer Capital Partners, in 2006 for an undisclosed sum to build its restructuring practice. Recent projects included working with Lumara Health Inc. in its sale to Amag Pharmaceuticals Inc. and advising Codere SA on its restructuring, according to Perella Weinberg’s website.
Kramer, Slonecker, Scherer and Verost all worked at Houlihan Lokey, another investment bank that provides financial-advisory services. Kramer and Verost also worked with one another at Greenhill & Co.
The case is Kramer v. Perella Weinberg Partners LLC, 651783/2015, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).
(Perella Weinberg’s comment was corrected in an earlier version of this story.)