Adviser challenges non-solicitation High Court case

An adviser is fighting a High Court case brought by his former employer over allegations he breached non-solicitation, non-dealing and non-competing clauses.

Jonathan Fisher left SFIA, which offers specialist school fees and personal financial planning advice, in May 2011 to join Cheshire-based Chartwell Financial Services. Within weeks of his departure, 72 clients with assets totalling £6m under advice moved to Chartwell.

SFIA is suing Fisher for damages in the region of £100,000, claiming he breached his contract, which included non-dealing, non-solicitation and non-competing contract clauses.

Fisher argues he did not solicit the clients but they chose to come with him after learning of his move through LinkedIn and professional contacts such as accountants and stockbrokers.

Fisher says: “It seems I am being taken to court because my clients expressed a view as to how they want their affairs managed. There should not be covenants in contracts which restrict an individual’s choice. It is absolutely wrong.” He argues the clauses are particularly unfair to clients as they would not be aware that such contract clauses existed.

He says: “The FSA expects firms to treat their customers in a fair way but having a non-dealing clause in an adviser’s contract seems to go against that.”

Chris Procter, joint managing director of SFIA, says: “We do have very specific and clear non-dealing, non-solicitation, non-competing clauses in place. Because we work in a very specialist area of the market, a client would not just pick up and go to another firm as another firm would not be able to service them in the way we do.”

Fisher has applied for a strike-out and a hearing is scheduled at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on March 29.