November 14, 2018
A recent Law 360 story by John Petrick, “Ex-UBS Analyst Seeks $3.2M in Atty Fees After $1M Jury Win,” reports that an ex-UBS analyst who won a nearly $1 million verdict in his whistleblower suit against his former employer asked a New York federal judge this week to award him $3.2 million in attorneys’ fees, saying that federal securities law requires the bank to fork over the funds. Two law firms that represented former UBS analyst Trevor Murray, who emerged victorious from a nearly seven-year fight with the bank after he alleged he was fired in 2012 for complaining he was being pressured to falsely report better market conditions to boost UBS’ revenue numbers and impress investors, each asked for fees for their work on the case, according to filings.
Now that he’s won a jury verdict in the case, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act provides that the company cover his legal bills from Broach & Stulberg LLP and Herbst Law PLLC, he said in the petitions. “For the entirety of Murray’s struggle, Broach & Stulberg has stood by his side, opposing every defense motion, persisting on his behalf and ultimately, winning and defending a favorable verdict,” Murray said in the petition on that firm’s fees.
Murray filed the lawsuit in February 2014, claiming UBS pressured him to skew his research to support the bank’s CMBS trading and loan origination activities and to report better conditions in the market because the commercial mortgage-backed securities line was a significant revenue generator. In late 2011, Murray allegedly told the bank’s head CMBS trader he was concerned that certain CMBS bonds were overvalued, according to the suit. But Murray was told not to publish anything negative about the bonds because they had been purchased by the UBS trading desk, he claims.
He was fired shortly thereafter, just a month after receiving what he said was an excellent performance review. UBS had pushed back hard against Murray’s contentions in court, including arguing in March 2016 that the Sarbanes-Oxley claims should fail because Murray was terminated as part of a downsizing that resulted from the global financial downturn’s financial impact in 2011. UBS also argued that Murray didn’t have a reasonable belief that the conduct he reported was a violation of applicable laws or regulations, and therefore the court should toss his claims.
But in March 2017, U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla sided with Murray, finding he’d put forward sufficient evidence that he engaged in a protected activity and that the activity was a contributing factor to his termination, and sending the case to trial. After a three-week trial, a jury in Manhattan awarded Murray nearly $1 million, finding he was fired for refusing to skew his research to impress investors, according to filings in the case.
The Herbst law firm in a petition asked for $638,950 to cover attorneys’ fees and another $1,160.55 plus interest in costs, court records show. A day later, Broach & Stulberg filed a petition seeking about $2.6 million for their work on the case.
Peter Stack, a spokesman for UBS, told Law360 the company would challenge the fee bid, noting it was significantly higher than the verdict itself. “The claim of Mr. Murray's attorneys that their efforts should be valued at more than triple the jury's award to Mr. Murray is wholly unwarranted,” Stack said. “We look forward to addressing the matter in court.”
The case is Murray v. UBS Securities LLC et al., case number 1:14-cv-00927, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.