Bessemer Trust Company, N.A. v. Francis S. Branin, Jr.

Plaintiff sued a former employee after a number of the former employee's clients left plaintiff's wealth management and investment advisory firm for the firm that the former employee currently works at. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit certified the following question for the court: "What degree of participation in a new employer's solicitation of a former employer's client by a voluntary seller of that client's good will constitutes improper solicitation?" In answering the certified question, the court continued to apply its precedents in Von Breman v. MacMonnies and Mohawk Maintenance Co. v. Kessler and held that the "implied covenant" barred a seller of "good will" from improperly soliciting his former clients. The court also held that, while a seller may not contact his former clients directly, he may, "in response to inquiries" made on a former client's own initiative, answer factual questions. The court further held that the circumstances where a client exercising due diligence requested further information, a seller may assist his new employer in the "active development... of a plan" to respond to that client's inquires. Should that plan result in meeting with a client, a seller's "largely passive" role at such a meeting did not constitute improper solicitation in violation of the "implied covenant." As such, a seller or his new employer may then accept the trade of a former client.