Per the Broker Protocol, there are only five pieces of information on each client that an advisor is allowed to take with him/her when making a move to a new firm.
Some firms have recently adopted new restrictions to their Protocol participation. For example, clients that an advisor has inherited from a departing broker may be subject to a separate arrangement whereby they are not covered by the Protocol and it could trigger litigation if information on those clients is taken or attempts are made to move them within two to three years of the date they were assigned to the inheriting advisor.
The Five Allowable Items are:
2. Mailing Address
3. Phone number(s)
4. Email address(s)
5. Account title
Account balances and individual holdings within their accounts are specifically omitted.
Despite widespread publicity covering Protocol guidelines and company legal departments doing their best to caution advisors in the middle of a move, alleged violations are still fairly common and often result in expensive litigation. The most common violation, without question, is the one where advisors get caught having told people that they are moving to a specific firm in advance of the actual move.
This often happens because an advisor will tell a spouse, friend, relative or trusted client about their impending move due to enthusiasm and/or sense of loyalty. Too often, though, the recipient of that information innocently shares it with another friend or colleague and the telegraph wire lights up. If that information gets back to the advisor's current firm, which happens with alarming regularity, termination typically results followed by a lawsuit when the advisor tries to move and take his/her clients to a new firm.
This violation is often ferreted out by firms who have their legal departments surreptiously call a departing advisor's clients and pose questions designed to see if the client reveals that any mention of a pending move to a new firm was made by the advisor. Not realizing what is happening, clients can unsuspectingly doom the advisor.
Advisors considering or in the middle of switching firms should know that if they disregard Protocol rules, they do so at their own peril. The same can be said for advisors who try to navigate that process without the guidance of an experienced recruiter.