Pollock sues Advocis for wrongful termination

By Michelle Schriver  and  Melissa Shin | February 9, 2024 | Last updated on February 9, 2024
5 min read
Gavel, scales, law books on desk
AdobeStock / Sebastian Duda

Greg Pollock, who was ousted as president and CEO of Advocis in September, is suing his former employer for wrongful termination.

The 68-year-old Pollock alleges he was terminated “without cause” and without notice, learning of the termination through a text message from Advocis board chairman Eric Lidemark on Sept. 13, according to a statement of claim filed in December with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Milton, Ont.

Pollock’s claim states his employment contract, which was to last until the end of 2026, was breached. He seeks $2.5 million from Advocis to cover his full compensation for the remainder of his employment agreement, including RRSP contributions from Advocis as well as unpaid bonuses to which he alleges he was entitled.

Pollock’s claim also seeks what he alleges was unpaid compensation during his employment, including benefits and accrued vacation, with the amount to be determined.

Advocis announced on Sept. 13 that Pollock had left the organization effective immediately, with Lidemark thanking Pollock for his service. Pollock had led the advisor advocacy organization since October 2008.

“Advocis has retained legal counsel, denies any wrongdoing and intends to vigorously defend the allegations advanced by Mr. Pollock,” Douglas Smith, counsel for Advocis and partner with Borden Ladner Gervais in Toronto, said in an emailed statement. “Advocis will not comment further on its dispute with Mr. Pollock given that the parties are both represented by legal counsel.”

Stephen Moreau, counsel for Pollock and partner with Cavalluzzo LLP in Toronto, said he had no comment, given the matter is before court.

Pollock’s most recent employment agreement with Advocis began in 2022 and provided for a fixed term of employment ending on Dec. 31, 2026, according to the statement of claim. Pollock’s base salary was $468,479.55 when he was terminated.

Per the claim, the employment agreement states that Advocis may terminate Pollock’s employment without just cause prior to the conclusion of the contract term, upon providing 12 months’ notice plus one month of additional notice per completed year of service after 2019.

“The 2022 employment agreement further stipulates that this notice or pay in lieu thereof constitutes the plaintiff’s ‘full monetary and other entitlements that are owing to him upon termination,’” the claim states.

However, Pollock is claiming damages for all pay, benefits and remuneration payable through to 2026, alleging that the termination clause is contrary to Ontario’s Employment Standards Act.

Advocis has filed a motion asking that the lawsuit be stayed and the dispute be referred to arbitration instead, as required under the terms of Pollock’s employment agreement.

Pollock’s remuneration included annual salary increases of the greater of 3% or the increase in the cost of living, to a maximum of 5%; extended benefits; employer-sponsored RRSP contributions; reimbursement of professional development expenses and club memberships; and an annual bonus of 30% of Pollock’s base salary based on “performance metrics and criteria outlined in various letters and agreements between [Pollock] and Advocis,” according to the claim.

“The plaintiff pleads that, prior to the 2022 fiscal year, he had consistently received an annual target bonus each year pursuant to the terms of his employment contracts and other agreements with Advocis,” the claim states. “The plaintiff further pleads that he has received the full amount of his target bonus at 30% of his base salary for the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years.”

Pollock also alleges that Advocis “never set any deliverables or formulas for calculating his annual target bonus” for 2022, contrary to his employment agreement’s terms. In further contravention of the agreement, he claims the organization failed to communicate the criteria for his 2023 bonus “within the specified timelines.”

Pollock received no bonus for 2022 or for any period thereafter, the claim states. He claims he’s entitled to the 2022 bonus at 30% of his salary ($133,851), and expected his bonus to be 30% of his salary for 2023 ($140,543).

Pollock further alleges Advocis used his base salary and not his full compensation to calculate his vacation and holiday pay, which he argues breaches Ontario’s Employment Standards Act. He is seeking damages for unpaid vacation pay for the entire period of his employment contract, with the amount to be determined.

Pollock’s claim comes at a challenging time for Advocis.

In summer 2023, the association reported its largest net loss in recent years. As reported by Advisor.ca in August, expenses exceeded revenues by $2.5 million for the 2022 fiscal year.

The negative result was the largest since fiscal 2017 as the association grappled with falling membership, updated its education programs, invested in infrastructure and dealt with pandemic-related fallout.

“The financial results of 2022 have put a strain on the financial resources and liquidity of [the association],” notes to the financial statements said.

The statements said that, since year-end, Advocis had raised cash by increasing its line of credit to $500,000, arranging a loan of $610,000 against the cash surrender value of life insurance policies held, and establishing a $1.7-million line of credit from the Century Initiative Fund, from which it also received support.

The Century Initiative was created in 2006 to ensure the association’s capitalization and is funded with premium membership fees. Its balance was $5.5 million at the end of last year, and the fund has contributed $1.5 million to various Advocis initiatives over the past five years, the annual report said.

Advocis’s financials said the association was in the process of completing a “restructuring plan” to “reduce operating expenses and provide a sound financial base for the organization.”

In a statement emailed to Advisor.ca in August, Advocis said that “2022 was a challenging year for Advocis and so many other organizations across Canada. We are still feeling the impact of the pandemic and are adapting our operations to better reflect that reality.”

Last May, Julie Martini was named to the new position of chief operating officer of Advocis.

The Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario, which oversees credentialing bodies in the province, has said its supervision approach for 2023–24 will focus on four areas, one of which is how credentialing bodies are prepared to handle increased demands on their resources.

As a credentialing body for the “financial advisor” title, Advocis subsidiary the Institute for Advanced Financial Education may see less revenue than originally anticipated, given that the Canadian Investment Regulatory Organization (CIRO) was also approved last month as a credentialing body — opening up that protected title to its thousands of registrants.

Advocis said it was concerned about the approval of the CIRO as a credentialing body.

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Michelle Schriver

Michelle is Advisor.ca’s managing editor. She has worked with the team since 2015 and been recognized by the National Magazine Awards and SABEW for her reporting. Email her at michelle@newcom.ca.
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Melissa Shin

Melissa is the editorial director of Advisor.ca and leads Newcom Media Inc.’s group of financial publications. She has been with the team since 2011 and been recognized by PMAC and CFA Society Toronto for her reporting. Reach her at mshin@newcom.ca. You may also call or text 416-847-8038 to provide a confidential tip.