Contract Dispute Implicating Wells Fargo Data to be Arbitrated

December 12, 2017 by Alexa P. Stephenson, Esq.

A contract dispute between Wells Fargo Advisors LLC and its former Managing Director, Gary Sinderbrand, was ordered into arbitration by New York State Judge Charles E. Ramos. In doing so, Judge Ramos preserved an existing injunction precluding Sinderbrand from disclosing additional customer information that Wells Fargo had unintentionally released when responding to a subpoena.

Sinderbrand tried to bring the case to a close by submitting to the court a concise notice of discontinuance of the suit comprised of breach of contract and unjust enrichment allegations. During a subsequent hearing, Wells Fargo filed an objection to Sinderbrand’s notice of discontinuance, claiming there was a pending motion to compel arbitration and as such, a stipulation or separate motion was required to terminate the suit.

Sinderbrand’s counsel claimed that while Wells Fargo had succeeded on an August 2017 motion to prevent additional dissemination of customer information, and there was still a pending motion to compel arbitration, Sinderbrand retained the right to discontinue the claim as a motion to dismiss had not been submitted. Since a motion to compel arbitration is not a responsive pleading, Sinderbrand’s attorney argued that the case is not currently before the court and discontinuance should be permitted accordingly.

Counsel for Wells Fargo had earlier contended that the precedent established in the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. litigation, in addition to Sinderbrand’s arrangement with Wells Fargo, collectively mandated that all disputes be settled via arbitration. Wells Fargo’s attorney further informed Judge Ramos that the bank had in fact submitted a substantive response and requested him to deny the discontinuance, stay the case, and order the proceedings into arbitration.

Judge Ramos subsequently decided to stay the case for arbitration and kept the injunction intact.

Gary Sinderbrand originally obtained the customer information at issue—which contained names, Social Security numbers, account data, assets, addresses, and loan totals—in response to an external discovery request as part of a defamation claim filed in a New Jersey Superior Court against his elder brother, Steven Sinderbrand.

A subsequent case in a New York Supreme Court identifies the older Sinderbrand, who is a managing director at Wells Fargo Advisors, in allegations of breach of contract and unjust enrichment.