The plaintiff Soost was summarily dismissed from his position as a financial advisor by the defendant Merrill Lynch Canada Inc.. Three years prior the plaintiff had received a generous package of inducements to commence employment with the defendant, and the value of his book of business that he transferred to the defendant was between $70 and $80 million.
The plaintiff's employment contract specified that he was expected to comply with all relevant regulatory authorities in addition to the defendant's policies. The defendant alleged, amongst other things, that the plaintiff's failure to obtain management approval for his private placement activities and continued solicitation of a stock contrary to the defendant's direction constituted just cause for dismissal. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant's private placement policy had never been strictly adhered to within the company and that none of his actions justified dismissal. After the defendant decided to terminate the plaintiff, the decision was not executed for 2 weeks. Upon dismissal, the plaintiff was unable to persuade many of his clients to his new employer and subsequently left the industry.
The issue was whether the defendant had proved there was sufficient basis to summarily dismiss the plaintiff.
The Court found that none of the defaults it addressed either singly or in combination were sufficient to justify summary dismissal of the plaintiff. The court did find some merit or substance to some of the alleged grounds for dismissal but not to others. The plaintiff was awarded damages in lieu of notice of $600,000 and additional damages of $1.6 million for injury to reputation and goodwill.
Of particular significance to the Court was the fact that the defendant waited 14 days to execute its decision to dismiss the plaintiff for cause. This delay was interpreted by the Court to imply that immediate action was not required and that there was no reason why the defendant could not have provided the plaintiff with minimal notice or allowed him to resign of his own accord.