Merrill Lynch: The Cost Could Be Fatal

When Keith Schooley took a job with one of the largest, most respected securities firms on Wall Street, he had high hopes for a successful career in finance. He was proud to work for a company of such high integrity as Merrill Lynch. It didn’t take long, however, for Schooley to realize Merrill Lynch’s well-cultivated reputation was not based on what went on behind the facade.

The story follows the chronological events that eventually led him to a courtroom battle with the behemoth firm. It begins with Schooley encountering a number of questionable events within the firm, including cheating on insurance exams. His concerns deepened when he was told, “Don’t worry about product knowledge. Just sell.”

In a daring move, Schooley decides he cannot look the other way and writes a lengthy memo to Merrill Lynch management that details 10 specific incidents of wrongdoing within the company. There were several attempts made by Merrill Lynch to quiet the whistle-blower, which were followed by Schooley’s controversial dismissal.

The latter part of the book details Schooley’s wrongful termination suit, which ends up going to arbitration. Skeptical he would get a fair hearing, Schooley appealed to all regulators possible that might be able to force Merrill Lynch to own up to its actions, including the New York Stock Exchange and the National Association of Securities Dealers. Despite having in his corner legal heavyweight attorney Stephen Jones, who represented Schooley in the initial rounds of his fight, and Professor Michael Rustad, the nation’s leading authority on punitive damages who testified on Schooley’s behalf, the result of the arbitration is a disappointment.

In the end, Schooley paid the ultimate price, not only losing a job but sacrificing his marriage as well. Finding strength in his faith, Schooley exhausted every motion and petition he could file with the courts before presenting his case in the court of public opinion.