Former Red Sox Catcher Wins Case Against Merrill Lynch

Former Red Sox catcher Doug Mirabelli has earned another victory, this time off the field.

An arbitration panel ruled on Jan. 13 that Merrill Lynch must repay Mirabelli more than $1.2 million in damages and fees for providing inappropriate investment advice to the two-time World Series champion and his wife, Kristin.

“It’s rare for a FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) arbitration panel to award every dollar amount of out-of-pocket loss,” said Barry Lax, Mirabelli’s lawyer, in an interview.

Lax estimates that less than 5 percent of the cases he has dealt with in his roughly 20 years in the industry have resulted in this type of full-repayment ruling — where the claimant receives the complete original investment, in addition to all legal fees and associated arbitration costs.

“The panel basically put the Mirabelli’s back in a position that they would have been in had they never met Phil Scott (the Merrill Lynch adviser),” he said.

The case was argued against one of Merrill’s top advisers, Scott, a Bellevue, Washington-based broker who has been with Merrill for nearly three decades. Scott was ranked the top adviser in Washington State last year by Barron’s and managed about $1.1 billion in client assets.

The Mirabelli’s invested about $1.8 million, all of their liquid assets, with Scott in early 2008, according to Lax. Scott then put those assets into his team’s income portfolio, which is made up of 33 dividend-paying growth stocks.

Because the account was collateralized through loans, if the value of the account fell below $1 million in value, they would need to sell out of the securities held in the accounts — which is what happened in November 2008, amid an industry-wide meltdown of financial markets.

The result was a roughly $800,000 loss for the Mirabelli’s.

Lawyers for the couple argued that Scott put the Mirabelli’s assets in “inappropriate” investments, offering the recommendation and purchase of unsuitable securities; in this case, an all-growth stock portfolio.

Merrill Lynch spokesman Bill Halldin said the firm disagreed with the panel’s decision, given the facts presented in the case.

“This account was handled properly during a very difficult time when there was extreme market volatility,” he said.

(Reporting By Ashley Lau; Editing by Bernard Orr)