Investment Bank is Trying to Claw Back my Signing Bonus

My former employer is trying to claw back my signing and relocation bonus, which totaled $15k. They have sent me 3 separate letters and have now said "[Employer] will file a Statement of Claim against you with FINRA Dispute Resolution to recover your debt. [Employer] will also seek accrued interest, all attorneys’ fees, and all costs it incurs in connection with this matter."

For context, my bonuses were subject to a 1 year clawback. However, I stayed at the firm for 13 months, which is also validated by my U4. The reason why I am subject to the clawback is because "I gave intent to resign prior to the first anniversary of the Signing Bonus Payment Date". My signing and relocation bonuses were paid about 1.5 months after I started work, hence me not reaching 1 complete year from payment date.

How should I handle this situation? I see 3 different scenarios: Continue ghosting the firm, email them back and look to settle based on my time spent at a trivial amount (~$2k), or let them take me to Arbitration and see what happens.

There is no scenario where I will willingly pay them the gross amount right now. Personally, I think it's extremely petty to be so rigid about a trivial amount when I actually had stayed for the entire time period.  


Look at the language of your employment contract. It will explicitly state what the terms are. Might be beneficial to have an attorney look at it to verify, but if it says something like “In the event that, prior to the first anniversary of the start date you voluntarily terminate your employment with us”, it would indicate that the date used for clawback is your hire date or first day you got paid working.

Dont think that they are right just because they are a bank and have a legal team, at my previous employer they claimed something while I claimed another. Turned out I was right and the bank changed offer letter language because of me.

Good luck!

Most Helpful

What is the exact language in your offer letter? My hunch is your letter says from payment date, otherwise they wouldn't waste time pursuing it. If that is true, it doesn't really matter what your start date was, agree this is a bit underhanded but since you signed the letter you do legally owe them the money back...

I would not ignore this - either by ghosting or waiting for arbitration. They usually send these to debt collectors, so even if you resolve it with them you'll take a huge credit score hit for the next 7 years. Even if they do take you to arbitration, they will win if the offer letter wording is in their favor.

If the wording is indeed in their favor and says from payment date - I would try to settle, $2k seems like a fair amount. One option not in your list is consulting an employment lawyer. This is literally a $100-200 consult and IMO well worth that investment. If the wording seems to be in your favor or is unclear, go this route.

No matter what you do don't ignore this though. Would suck to get a 100-150 point credit hit from what is ultimately not a lot of money.


"If you resign or give notice of your intent to resign on or prior to the first anniversary of the signing bonus payment date, you must immediately repay the gross, before-tax amount of the Signing Bonus to [Employer] in its entirety" 

Based off this, it's pretty clear that I do legally owe them. Thanks for the advice. I will work towards negotiating a settlement


If they file a FINRA arbitration and you don't respond, they'll win a default judgment. They can eventually take this to a state court for a judgment, which they can enforce with liens, bank account levies, garnishment of your paychecks, etc

so whatever you do, don't ignore them. If youre still in banking, make sure you understand the implications of settling the debt for less. I think that would give you a brokercheck disclosure 


May depend on what kind of bank it is, I had a friend at GS / MS take a bonus that they were requesting to be clawed back and had no problems as there was no follow up, no clue what language they used though


Sounds like RBC's early sign-on bonus. Also, heard that there's been quite a lot of turnover there, including some TikTok girl in RBC Tech. If anything, OP could be that girl in question since the timeline lines up (~13 months)...


Comes down to whether they can actually prove when your "intent" occurred, like did you write a letter, send an email or smth? if you only mentioned – as in orally mentioned through phone or in person– to your staffer, HR or whatever that you want to resign, then you can just ignore them, if not, yeah go try and settle. 


I hate this atrocious behavior from banks.

At a prior firm they clawed back an analyst's signing bonus (similar story, stayed the full year type deal) and it just comes back to bite them in the ass. That $10 - $15K will cost them millions later.

For some poetic justice relevant to the clawback, he immediately started at a fund that was working with my firm and would just pound the junior team with requests. A couple years later the firm pitched for one of their PortCos and lost... he says because of him, but you never know the full truth.

That $10K cost them millions.


People telling you to obsess over the details of the contract are not approaching it from the right angle.

The contract question is already settled: it says if you express intent to leave before the one year anniversary of the payment, you owe them.  That’s not the real question here.

The real question is, what can you realistically get away with.  The considerations are:

1) is it debatable when you expressed intent? or do they have written proof before the anniversary?

2) arbitration is designed to be less of a hassle than court, but it’s not a total walk in the park. There’s some work to do, some fees to pay, maybe a tiny shred of reputational risk too although not much.  

If it’s actually debatable whether you expressed intent, fight them tooth & nail. That’s a hard case for them.

Assuming they have proof of your intent on a date before the anniversary, I would do the following. Call them up, sound angry, put on a show to convince them that I don’t care about the law and I’m all about fairness and will fight them because I’m crazy and think the arbitrator will side with me (I don’t believe any of this but that’s the show I’d put on) and then tell them I can pay a pro-rated amount because I’m all about fairness.  

If they call my bluff, I probably still arbitrate because the interest & fees have to sensible so you’re not risking that much.  

But bluff hard.


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