VOL. 131 | NO. 35 | Thursday, February 18, 2016
First Tennessee Names Competing Bank in Employment Complaint
By Andy Meek
First Tennessee Bank is expanding the scope of a legal action it filed last May in the wake of Nashville-based Pinnacle Financial Group’s entry into the Memphis market.
First Tennessee filed an initial complaint in Shelby County Chancery Court in the weeks after Pinnacle announced its acquisition of Memphis’ Magna Bank in April 2015. At the time, First Tennessee’s complaint named only Damon Bell, a First Tennessee executive vice president recruited to be Pinnacle’s Memphis president.
An amended complaint filed Wednesday, Feb. 17, adds Pinnacle as a defendant.
Pinnacle declined to address the amended complaint, with Pinnacle Memphis chairman Kirk Bailey saying only, “We cannot comment on pending litigation. However, we look forward to continuing to build a meaningful presence here in Memphis.”
Concurrent with the announcement of its Magna acquisition last year, Pinnacle announced the recruitment of Bell and seven other First Tennessee employees. That, according to the amended complaint, was the culmination of secretive efforts that included involvement from Pinnacle to recruit Bell and the other defectors while they were still employed at First Tennessee.
Pinnacle announced its acquisition of Magna – and that it had hired the eight First Tennessee employees – the same week as First Tennessee’s annual shareholders meeting in 2015.
“The seven resignations orchestrated by Bell and Pinnacle, along with Bell’s own abrupt resignation, have in fact caused harm to First Tennessee,” the complaint reads. “All of these employees were responsible for substantial and important customer relationships, and the defections were unexpected and immediate in nature, so First Tennessee has been forced to undertake expensive and time-consuming efforts to transition responsibility to its remaining team members in order to continue to serve its clients’ needs.”
Pinnacle went on to hire other professionals locally from other institutions like SunTrust after the first wave of First Tennessee hires – as well as additional employees from First Tennessee who were added later.