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SunTrust defeats former advisor in defamation lawsuit

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A former SunTrust bank advisor who sued the bank for defamation lost his case in court last month after a hard-fought legal battle.

Marc Franco claimed that the bank placed a slanderous statement in his form U5, an action that prevented him from finding suitable employment, according to documents filed in federal court.
Franco alleged that the bank falsely stated that he had been dismissed for failing to meet bank performance standards when he had been one of its top performers.

Franco blamed the defamatory statement for Wells Fargo's withdrawal of a job offer soon after he was terminated from SunTrust. "He was rejected by prospective employers, lost his book of business, suffered a stress-related heart attack, lost his licenses and was otherwise blackballed from the financial industry," Franco’s attorney, Andre Perron of Florida law firm Barnes Walker, Goethe, Hoonhout, Perron & Shea, said in a court filing.

Franco, who worked for SunTrust Investment Services in Sarasota, Florida, sought compensatory damages for his lost income, lost book of business and mental anguish as well as punitive damages for conduct he claimed was malicious.

SunTrust countered that the statement on the U5 was true and that the reason Wells Fargo rescinded its offer of employment was because Franco lied on his application about his separation from SunTrust, according to court papers.

SunTrust declined to comment on the case through its attorney, Andrew Froman of law firm Fisher & Phillips.

Franco had previously prevailed in a FINRA arbitration in which he won $100,000 from Atlanta-based SunTrust for wrongful termination. The arbitration panel found that the statement on his U5 was defamatory and recommended that it be expunged.

Even though Franco was hired as an advisor, SunTrust was pressuring him to sell commercial loans, which were outside the manual for production goals, Perron said. He nevertheless secured a number of loans, several of which were in the pipeline when he was terminated, according to Perron.

"We disagreed with the court's application of Georgia law to a tort claim in Florida," Perron said of the court's ruling.

Franco joined SunTrust in November 2011 and was dismissed in December 2013, according to court filings. He had previously worked for Wells Fargo's private bank for more than nine years.

Franco joined Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company as a financial advisor after a near three-year-period of unemployment following his dismissal from SunTrust. He has a new job coming up with Wells Fargo in Pennsylvania, according to Perron.

"We're very happy that he secured a position with Wells Fargo and is restarting his career in banking once again in a business that he loves," Perron said.

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