Baseball star Alex Rodriguez at centre of JPMorgan client poaching row

A JPMorgan Chase banker this week filed for a restraining order against her own employer to prevent what she alleges has been an effort by coworkers at a different division of the US lender to poach her clients, including retired baseball star Alex Rodriguez.

Details of the dispute between Gwen Campbell and JPMorgan were laid out on Thursday in a legal filing that refers to an unidentified “Pro Athlete Client”, who was a client of Campbell’s at Merrill Lynch before she brought them over to JPMorgan Advisors when she switched firms in October 2020. 

People familiar with the matter told the Financial Times the athlete is Rodriguez, who was an infielder for the New York Yankees and is known as “A-Rod”. He was on the team that won the 2009 World Series.

Representatives for Campbell and JPMorgan declined to comment on the identity of the client. Representatives for Rodriguez did not respond to requests for comment.

Rodriguez is the highest paid Major League Baseball player by total career earnings, having made more than $399m over the course of his 22-season career, according to Baseball Reference

In her complaint, Campbell alleges that JPMorgan’s private bank, which like JPMorgan Advisors caters to wealthy clients but sits within a separate part of the lender under different leadership, has been trying to lure Rodriquez and other clients away from her team. 

The 48-page filing alleges that Campbell was “lured into a shark tank in which private bank employees defame her to her own clients and attempt to poach client assets from Campbell’s management”. 

“Campbell is a victim of a hire-and-poach ‘playbook’ that is known within JPMorgan to be a consequence of the internal conflict between JPMA and the private bank,” the complaint alleges. 

The filing seeks to put formal restrictions on JPMorgan private bank employees soliciting or meeting with Campbell’s clients, as she seeks damages through arbitration proceedings for what she alleges is breach of contract by JPMorgan.

JPMorgan on Friday filed a motion opposing the request for a restraining order. The bank said Campbell’s claims “have no merit and we look forward to presenting the facts to the court”.

“All our clients have access to our world class solutions platform and the choice of the advisor they want to work with. This advisor did not lose any clients while working here,” JPMorgan added.

When Campbell agreed to join JPMorgan last year, she negotiated her contract to address concerns she had raised about the overlapping interests between JPMorgan Advisors and the private bank and the potential for internal conflicts, according to the filing.

The dispute shines a rare light on the internal strains within large banks like JPMorgan where overlapping divisions can sometimes target the same clients. It is also a reflection of the at-times unwieldy structure of a bank that is the product of multiple mergers over decades.

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According to the filing, JPMorgan had long aimed for a deeper relationship with Rodriguez but until Campbell joined, he only had a “low-seven-figure amount” in an account at JPMorgan’s private bank. When Campbell moved to JPMorgan, Rodriguez and his partner, who is not identified, moved hundreds of millions of dollars in assets and debt to the bank.

In the months after she moved to JPMorgan, Campbell alleges that its private bank “began a secretive campaign of encroachment on Campbell’s relationship with” Rodriguez, including pitching him for services which she was already providing. 

Rodriguez is best known for his more than two-decade career as a professional baseball player but has since become an investor, broadcaster and entrepreneur. 

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