Hightower Advisors is suing one of its former Florida-based advisors for allegedly stealing proprietary information and taking it to a competitor, Steward Partners.

Faiza Kedir, an advisor once employed by Hightower in Punta Gorda, Fla., is accused of breach of contract, misappropriation of trade secrets, unfair competition, interference with business relationships and prospective economic advantage, violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and defamation, among related charges.

Hightower is demanding she return the proprietary information, stop using it, stop poaching clients, and pay damages of not less than $1 million along with all legal fees. Over the last two years, aggregators like Hightower have grown more aggressive in building legal claims against advisors who jump firms to competitotrs.

Kedir and Hightower failed to respond to requests for an interview. Matt Henneman, Hightower’s attorney, simply said, “We cannot comment on pending litigation.”

The defendant had been a branch manager of a Bank of America retail bank for 22 years before joining Landsberg Bennett Private Wealth Management group in Punta Gorda, Fla., in 2018. In 2021, Landsberg became a Hightower affiliate. From then on, Kedir was employed by Hightower until her resignation in September 2023, according to the complaint and confirmed by the SEC Advisor Info website.

“As of her resignation, Kedir was the lead advisor to or had a substantial relationship with client accounts totaling more than $150 million in assets under management,” the complaint alleges.

Hightower says she started as director of business development and did not become a financial advisor until late-2022, after Hightower allegedly helped her achieve her CFP designation. But Kedir’s LinkedIn profile claims she has been a CFP since June 2012, which Hightower calls false in its accusation. The SEC site says she passed her Series 7 exam in 2011 but does not specify when she became a CFP.

According to the allegations, before resigning from Hightower, Kedir emailed confidential company information to a personal account, including investment strategies, pricing and risk data for Hightower investment products, custom model portfolios, and customer information—all of which she has allegedly refused to return.

A month after her resignation, she joined Steward Partners Investment Solutions, where she is “in a position to use these materials to directly and improperly compete with Hightower,” the accusation reads.

Steward Partners has been on a rapid growth trajectory since it was founded 10 years ago. Kedir was part of a larger team of advisors that helped open its new office in Sarasota, Fla., and reportedly brought with them $170 million in assets under management, according to a press release at the time, which identified Kedir as the leader of the team of transplanted advisors.

“As of today’s date,” says Hightower’s allegation, filed in U.S. District Court in the first week of November, “she has moved more than $50 million in assets to her new employer, representing approximately $450,000 in annual revenue. [Her] ongoing actions and disregard for her obligations to Hightower threaten [another] $100 million plus in assets.”

Kedir is accused of causing her former firm “irreparable harm” by misappropriating trade secrets, in violation of the Defend Trade Secrets Act, and poaching Hightower clients for Steward Partners.

Hightower lists among its proprietary products model portfolios tailored to the diverse needs of its client base—including a dividend strategy, a small-mid cap strategy, an international strategy, and a growth strategy. These portfolio strategies, and the investments they comprise, are Hightower’s “secret sauce,” the allegations state.

Hightower wants her not only to return the proprietary information she allegedly stole but to stop stealing its business.

Moreover, it accuses her of disparaging its business and reputation when, upon joining Steward Partners, she told the press, “I had been looking around the industry and conducting due diligence for the last few years before deciding to join Steward Partners, and no one else had an offering that was even close. I was looking for the opportunity to partner with a firm that is focused on the future.”

Hightower was launched in 2008. The Chicago-headquartered RIA currently has more than $130 billion in client assets under management through Hightower and its affiliates. Nationwide, it includes some 135 financial advisory practices.