A former Morgan Stanley advisor in California is suing the firm, claiming he was illegally fired after winning an elected seat on his county’s board of supervisors.

In a suit filed in federal court this month, David Couch of Bakersfield, Calif., claims the firm forced him out a year ago after being elected to the Kern County Board of Supervisors.

Couch claims that six months after winning his seat in June 2012, he was given an ultimatum to either resign his elected post or leave the firm. He claims Morgan Stanley was concerned about unidentified conflicts arising from his role as a county supervisor.

He was terminated in January 2013.

“They told him it was not going to be a problem,” said Couch’s attorney, Deborah Klar, of Klar & Associates.
But the ultimatum came “a week after he was going to start [on the county board] and after the expense of going through an election,” she said.

Couch claims that when he joined Morgan Stanley in 2007, he told the firm he intended to seek re-election to the Bakersfield city council and planned a run for the county board. He says Morgan Stanley agreed to his outside political activities, subject to some conditions.

The lawsuit asks for unspecified damages and a judicial determination that his non-compete contract with Morgan Stanley is not enforceable. It also asserts that Couch’s claim under California labor law is a statutory employment claim that is excluded from arbitration.

Couch is now affiliated with SCF Securities Inc. in Fresno, Calif. “We are reviewing this lawsuit and will respond in due course through the normal legal process,” said Morgan Stanley spokesman Jim Wiggins in an e-mail.

Separately, in December, a Finra arbitration panel awarded $525,000 in damages to former Morgan Stanley advisor Vincent Romano, who claimed the firm fired him in May 2012 because he ran for a seat in the Illinois assembly.

Morgan Stanley claimed Romano did not have prior approval for his candidacy, as the firm requires.