Edward Jones is seeking a temporary restraining order and injunctive relief in federal court against a former financial advisor who the company alleged stole confidential and trade secret information of “five-star” clients prior to his termination.

The complaint, filed in the  U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois on January 26, is requesting that the court require Cory Clem to return all Edward Jones confidential and trade secret client information in his possession, cease from directly or indirectly soliciting Edward Jones clients, and cease contacting Edward Jones employees.

Clem who worked in the firm's Macomb, Ill., office, had been with Edward Jones, where he began his career, since 2010. He was let go on January 20 and joined Ameriprise on January 24.

He did not respond to a message left at his office in Macomb, Ill. 

According to the complaint, Clem was responsible for serving hundreds of clients and was fully aware of company policy regarding client information, which was clearly laid out in the employment agreement he signed and agreed to when he accepted the position.

“Clem’s Employment Agreement includes, among other things, provisions acknowledging that Edward Jones’ client information, including client names and contact information, is the exclusive property of Edward Jones, and is considered an Edward Jones Trade Secret,” the complaint noted. It added that he was not allowed to solicit clients and employees for a year after termination, not allowed to retain client information and required to turn over all client information after termination.

But the complaint argued that Clem has violated the employment agreement. It said he began planning his move to Ameriprise in the fall of 2022. At that time, the complaint said, Clem traveled to Edward Jones’ headquarters in St. Louis to meet with human resources to “discuss issues they were having.” Prior to that meeting, he had asked one of the branch administrators to print a “Five-Star” relationship client list for him. That list, the complaint explained, included clients’ account information such as number of total assets under care, their net worth, the kinds of accounts they have, the categories of investments they have, whether their account is active or not, and  when to contact them.

Upon returning from the home office, the complaint said, Clem intensified his efforts to leave the company. He began bad-mouthing the company to clients and he informed his team (one financial advisor and two branch administrators) of his intention to go to Ameriprise and encouraged them to leave with him as a “team,” the complaint said. He told them that he was planning to resign February 24 to join Ameriprise.

The complaint said the promises of better health insurance benefits and offers to buy them suits for professional photos, and higher pay, did not sway the administrators to agree to join him at Ameriprise. But he still asked for their personal information, including their Social Security numbers and dates of birth, so that he could facilitate their onboarding process at Ameriprise, the complaint said. The advisor also did not agree to follow him on the move, the complaint said.

The complaint said an Ameriprise recruiter visited Clem in October and after that meeting, he directed the administrators to print additional information such as client holding sheets, which identified “all holdings in a client’s account, along with the account number, personal information for the owner of the account, the cost basis for each for each security held, the amount owned and its current price, any CDs or bonds owned, their yields and maturity dates, and any annuities owned along with their cash value and death benefit.”

The complaint also said that after the company’s holiday party in December, Clem instructed one of the administrators to leave the sign-in sheet with clients name and addresses out for his review, claiming “the Edward Jones’ clients in the branch office were ‘his clients’ and said that they would all go with him to Ameriprise."

In January, the complaint said, Clem gave the advisor his personal laptop with a software program that allowed him to upload client information for use at Ameriprise. The advisor was instructed to upload all the confidential information of clients both he and Clem serviced, the complaint said.

But the complaint said the advisor saw that Clem had already begun to upload information into the software program and was “felt extremely uncomfortable about the situation and knew it was wrong to use Edward Jones’ client information in this fashion or to take Edward Jones’ client information, so he took photographs of Clem’s personal laptop and a separate photograph of the Five-Star List reflecting the date that it was printed.” Clem had input information for 321 Edward Jones client households or 484 client contacts, the complaint said.

The advisor noticed that Clem was using TransitionSafe, a cloud-based program Ameriprise provides to incoming recruits for compiling client information from their former firm while still employed by that firm and input it into TransitionSafe, the complaint said. “By compiling information before their resignation, the recruit, with the help of Ameriprise, is able to immediately contact Edward Jones clients and send them transfer paperwork,” the complaint said.

On January 20, Edward Joneses compliance director of investigation Brian Harris made an unannounced visit to the branch to probe Clem’s potential violations. The complaint said upon learning that Harris was there, Clem closed his office door and could be heard moving papers. “When Clem opened the door, he had two bags by his desk,” the complaint said.

Harris questioned him about his intent to move to Ameriprise, but Clem denied it and said that was just one of the firms to which he was considering. Clem also denied that he input client information into his personal laptop and that he had collected any client information, the complaint said. He also told Harris that he did not have his computer with him, the complaint said, noting that he refused Harris’ request to look in the bags in Clem’s office.

Harris then went to talk to the advisor, at which time, the complaint said, Clem took a laptop and about a  six-inch stack of papers to his car. He told Harris that he did not take anything to his car and that he just went to the mailbox, the complaint said.

Armed with the photographic information from the advisor, Harris confronted Clem and Clem confirmed that the laptop in the photograph was his personal laptop. But when shown the photographs with Edward Joneses client information in the TransitionSafe program with his name attached, Clem responded that “it must have been another Cory Clem,” the complaint said.

Harris fired him that same day.

“To date, Edward Jones has not been able to recover the information input into Clem’s laptop. Thus, upon information and belief, Clem continues to retain possession of Edward Jones confidential and trade secret client information,” the complaint said. “Unless enjoined by the Court, Clem’s continued use of Edward Jones’ Trade Secrets, and Clem’s continued violations of his Employment Agreement will cause irreparable harm to Edward Jones.”

The complaint also noted that a letter on January 24 from Clem’s counsel stated, “Clem admitted that he has login credentials for TransitionSafe and that he has access to the information therein. His counsel has “been assured that [Clem] has not accessed TransitionSafe since his termination" on January 20.”