Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Goldman’s ‘Poaching’ Case: What’s Fair In Talent Wars?

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It happens just about every day in the wild world of investment banking: One bank picks off another bank’s top talent.

Exhibit A: Yesterday, Goldman Sachs sued seven former private wealth management employees recently poached by Credit Suisse (one of whom was reportedly lured away from Goldman with $11 million).

Some argue that poaching talent is unethical; others say it encourages competition. No matter what you believe, the talent war is here to stay.

So if you’re a potential poachee, you better know the rules of the game. Did you sign a non-compete clause? If so, what are the clause’s details? It’s not uncommon that employees have forgotten the fine print of the papers they signed when they joined their firm. Not to mention the whereabouts of said papers. So, some digging and searching may be required.

Luckily, these days, most banking professionals don’t sign non-compete clauses and thus are free to leave at-will. Though, in other industries and at the C-suite level across the capitalistic world (even in banking), non-competes are common, requiring departing executives to wait a certain period before joining a competitor.

Once you’ve found your contract and confirmed you’re free to leave without restrictions, you’ll want to check to see if you signed a non-solicitation agreement. If so, you’ll have to be careful how you tell your clients about your imminent departure—Goldman’s current lawsuit against its departing employees cites a breach of such an agreement.

Though it’s fine to tell clients you’re joining a competitor (and to name that firm), it’s not okay to ask them to bring their business with you before you’ve made the jump. To do that legally, you’ll have to wait until you’re officially not an employee of the firm you’re leaving.

Finally, when you do go, beware of bringing along proprietary information—though not always easily defined, the use of proprietary information is a common ground for lawsuits.

So, if in doubt, leave the recipe of the secret sauce behind when you’re cleaning out your desk.

–Posted by Derek Loosvelt, Vault Global Finance Editor

Read more of Derek’s finance industry wisdom at his blog, In the Black.

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Written by Linda Petock

February 19, 2010 at 9:32 am

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