Argush v. LPL Financial, LLC, 122818 FED3, 17-1969

Docket Nº:17-1969
Opinion Judge:SILER, Circuit Judge
Party Name:LEE ARGUSH, Appellant v. LPL FINANCIAL, LLC; ANDREW PUTTERMAN; FORTIGENT LLC; LPL HOLDINGS INC.
Judge Panel:Before: McKEE, VANASKIE, and SILER, Circuit Judges
Case Date:December 28, 2018
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
 
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LEE ARGUSH, Appellant

v.

LPL FINANCIAL, LLC; ANDREW PUTTERMAN; FORTIGENT LLC; LPL HOLDINGS INC.

No. 17-1969

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

December 28, 2018

NOT PRECEDENTIAL

Submitted Pursuant to Third Circuit LAR 34.1(a) July 10, 2018

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (D. N.J. Civ. No. 3-13-cv-07821) District Judge: Hon. Anne E. Thompson

Before: McKEE, VANASKIE, and SILER, [*] Circuit Judges

OPINION[**]

SILER, Circuit Judge

In this employment contract dispute, plaintiff Lee Argush appeals two pretrial decisions of the district court that preceded a jury verdict in favor of defendants LPL Financial, LLC and LPL Holding, Inc. (collectively, "LPL"). Specifically, Argush appeals the district court's order granting LPL's motions in limine that precluded Argush from presenting evidence related to: (1) LPL's planning and motive for Argush's termination, and (2) circumstances surrounding LPL's termination of Argush's business partners, Alan Gavornik and Nicholas Mariniello. Argush also appeals the district court's decision striking portions of his expert report on front-pay damages. For the reasons stated herein, we will affirm.

I.

Argush became an employee of LPL in 2011 when it acquired Concord Capital Partners ("Concord"), a technology company. Prior to this acquisition, Argush was CEO and partial owner of Concord. Argush had been responsible for "ensuring Concord's technology functioned properly on a day to day basis."

Upon LPL's purchase of Concord, LPL and Argush entered into a written employment agreement, supplemented by a stock purchase agreement (collectively, "the agreement"). Under the agreement's terms, Argush was considered an at-will employee. If LPL terminated Argush without "cause" he would be eligible to receive certain severance benefits and would have the opportunity to exercise vested stock options. If LPL terminated Argush's employment with cause, however, he would be ineligible for severance and would be unable to exercise stock options. Argush's contract defined "cause" as: "willful malfeasance, willful misconduct or gross negligence in connection with [Argush's] duties or an act or omission which is injurious to the financial condition or business reputation of LPL."

Pursuant to his employment agreement, Argush continued to supervise the Concord offices. The following year, LPL acquired another company similar to Concord and began integrating the two companies. Argush expressed concern and refused to cooperate with the integration. For example, Argush failed to submit requested information and interfered with LPL's access to employees in the Concord offices. In April 2013, Argush, Gavornik, and Mariniello brought suit against LPL. They alleged that LPL had diverted resources away from Concord, thereby harming their opportunity to receive additional compensation under their employment agreements.

Shortly thereafter, on July 30, 2013, LPL instructed Argush and his partners to begin working remotely. LPL stated that Argush's "continued presence in the Concord offices [would] create unnecessary difficulties as LPL Financial [sought] to implement its business strategy." Argush's work-remotely arrangement provided that he must seek permission at least twenty-four hours before coming into the office.1

On July 31, Argush emailed LPL executives and informed them of his "intent to continue to report to the office." LPL responded that it stood by its decision and expected Argush to work remotely. Executives reiterated that he should only report to the office under special circumstances, after giving notice. Argush ignored these instructions and reported to the office on August 1, as well as August 2. A LPL human resources representative emailed Argush that "any further violation of LPL Financial's directive to...

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