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VOL. 131 | NO. 36 | Friday, February 19, 2016

First Tennessee Adds Pinnacle to Complaint

By Andy Meek

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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 Bank is expanding the scope of an employment-related complaint it filed last May after Pinnacle Financial Group entered the Memphis market.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

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.

As executive vice president of First Tennessee’s private wealth group, Bell’s responsibilities included working with employees serving the bank’s private banking clients in West 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.

Pinnacle CEO Terry Turner told The Daily News in the weeks after the announcement of the Magna acquisition that entering the Memphis market has been in Pinnacle’s plan since the bank’s inception, when it was founded in 2000. Recruiting professionals from other institutions has also been critical to the game plan, as Turner sees it.

“I view us to be active recruiters of people,” Turner said at the time. “It’s an important discipline in our company. We target highly experienced bankers who have great reputations and control lots of clients.”

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 57 280 1,209
MORTGAGES 55 244 916
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 8 52 151
BUILDING PERMITS 158 699 2,751
BANKRUPTCIES 37 157 618
BUSINESS LICENSES 12 77 276
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0