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NY top court upholds firing compliance officer

ALBANY — New York’s top court has upheld the firing of a hedge fund’s compliance officer who says he confronted its chief executive about improperly selling personal stock ahead of making the same transactions for the firm’s clients.


The Court of Appeals, divided 5-2, is rejecting Joseph Sullivan’s damages claim against Peconic Partners, Peconic Asset Management and fund President William Harnisch.


The majority says New York common law generally gives an employer the “unimpaired” right to fire an at-will employee, absent a violation of the constitution, statute or contract, and there is no exception for wrongful discharge of a hedge fund’s compliance officer.


Dissenters say the court should expand the exception it has carved out for lawyers who get fired for insisting on professional ethics. They say the majority ruling “facilitates the perpetuation of frauds.”