Fired ICAP Broker Sued Firm for Millions. Or So He Thought
(Bloomberg) -- Fired in 2014 from an ICAP Plc job that he says was paying him more than $2 million a year, swaps broker Bruce Reid was eager to hit back with a wrongful termination claim.
Years later though, Reid still hadn’t had his day in court. At first his lawyer said a hearing date in New York was moved because it had been mistakenly scheduled on a Jewish holiday. Months later, the lack of progress was attributed to a discovery dispute. Then the lawyer claimed that he had begun settlement talks.
None of it was true, including the existence of the suit itself. Reid finally found out in February 2020 that the lawyer, Michael Mui, had never filed it at all.
“By then, the damage had been done,” Reid said in an actual lawsuit filed last year against Mui and the law firm where he works, New York’s Sack & Sack. According to Reid, the statute of limitations now barred claims he could have asserted against his former employer.
Last week, the suit that never was resulted in the six-month suspension of Mui’s New York law license, with the lawyer admitting his misconduct in a state disciplinary proceeding. In recommending suspension, the disciplinary committee said it had taken into account Mui’s “anxiety and stress” at the time of his actions and his “genuine remorse for his unethical choices.”
‘Pretty Bad Behavior’
Mui didn’t respond to email and phone messages seeking comment. Mark Anesh and Jamie Wozman, the lawyers who represented Mui in the disciplinary proceeding and are also defending him and Sack & Sack against Reid’s legal malpractice suit, declined to comment.
Reid didn’t respond to emails and calls seeking comment. His current lawyer, Lee Shalov, provided details about his client’s claims but didn’t respond to requests for comment on Mui’s suspension.
Stephen Gillers, a legal ethics professor at New York University, said a six-month suspension seemed “incredibly lenient” for a lawyer who lied to his client to the extent Mui did.
“This is pretty bad behavior,” said Gillers.
Reid says in his suit that he joined ICAP’s medium-term swaps desk in Jersey City in 2007 and was illegally fired in October 2014 because he cooperated with a Justice Department and Commodity Futures Trading Commission probe of the firm’s trading practices. Shalov said the investigation concerned alleged manipulation of the ISDAfix interest-rate derivative benchmark. The firm in 2018 agreed to pay $50 million to resolve the matter.
In his suit, Reid says he earned an average of $2.2 million in each of his last five years at ICAP. He says he got a new job but that it only paid him an average of $742,000 per year between 2015 and 2018. He believes his damages in terms of lost income from his wrongful termination total around $8 million with interest.
According to the suspension order, Reid retained Sack & Sack in 2015 to pursue litigation against his former employer. On its website, the four-lawyer firm says it focuses on employment law cases on behalf of senior executives. Mui was removed from the site on Thursday but was previously described as a former prosecutor with the Bronx district attorney’s office and the “protege” of firm head Jonathan Sack, who is also named in Reid’s lawsuit. Sack on Thursday declined to comment.
Mui admitted to the disciplinary committee that, throughout 2016, he repeatedly told his client he had filed to initiate an arbitration proceeding with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, even though he didn’t actually submit the filing until July 2017.
In late 2017, Mui told Reid the FINRA case was not progressing and suggested filing a lawsuit, the disciplinary investigation found. Over the next two years, the lawyer spun elaborate tales to his client about proceedings and filings that didn’t actually happen, adopting an exasperated tone in discussing the imaginary discovery dispute with ICAP.
“I’m going to ask the judge to allow me to file a motion for sanctions against them,” Mui told Reid in an email cited in the disciplinary proceeding. “They have not cooperated at all in discovery.”
Mui told Reid the case was before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Debra James, according to the suspension order. The suit’s non-existence was revealed when a lawyer friend of Reid’s sought information on the case’s status from the judge’s clerk.
Settlement in Principle
Gillers said Mui’s admissions in the disciplinary proceeding could be used against him and the firm in the legal malpractice suit. But the professor said any damages could be reduced if Reid can still go after his former employer.
Reid may have had some recent success on that front. He’s been pursuing his now seven-year-old claims against ICAP via private arbitration, which Shalov said was not barred by the statute of limitations. In an Aug. 2 letter to the court, Wozman said that a settlement in principle had been reached in the arbitration and that the parties had agreed to extend discovery deadlines in the legal malpractice case.
“In defendants’ view, plaintiff’s recovery in the arbitration will impact the damages he is seeking to recover from the defendants in the instant suit,” Wozman wrote. Shalov declined to comment on a possible settlement.
It’s not entirely clear with whom Reid may have settled, as the firm for which he once worked no longer exists in the same form. ICAP founder Michael Spencer sold parts of the business to what is now TP ICAP Group Plc in 2016 and others to CME Group Inc. in 2018. Both were named in Reid’s arbitration, and they’ve been fighting in a New Jersey court over which is the proper defendant.
Lawyers for CME and TP ICAP both declined to comment on the matter.
The legal malpractice case is Reid v. Sack, 20-cv-01817, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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