By Grant McCool and Steve Eder
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bank of America Corp <BAC.N> and former Merrill Lynch & Co brokerage chief Robert McCann have resolved a dispute over his contract, freeing him to take another job in financial services.
The settlement was announced by the two sides on Thursday. A joint statement gave no details, but McCann's lawyer, Steven Eckhaus, said his client was free to return to work at the end of the month.
McCann left Merrill Lynch after the investment bank was acquired by Bank of America on January 1. In a lawsuit in August, he accused the bank of blocking him from taking another job in financial services before January 2010. He contended he should have been free to go back to work in July.
He sought to lift a "non-competition" clause in his contract so he could take a job with a Bank of America rival. Published reports said the rival was Swiss bank UBS AG <UBSN.VX>. UBS declined to comment on Thursday.
Representatives of Bank of America, the No. 1 U.S. bank, declined comment on the settlement.
Justice Melvin Schweitzer of the New York State Court of Claims reserved judgment on McCann's lawsuit after hearing arguments from lawyers and testimony from McCann on September 16. "This is a very close call," the judge said at the hearing. [ID:nN16156325]
Bank of America Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis called Merrill's brokerage unit the "crown jewel" of that company when he announced the purchase of Merrill.
Merrill had about 16,000 brokers at the time, and its profits have helped Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America offset rising losses from credit cards and other consumer credit.
In a court filing, McCann contended that he gave written notice on January 5 that he would resign and that Bank of America accepted his reason for leaving. He said the bank rescinded its acceptance the following month, and fired him effective January 30, 2009.
For its part, the bank's lawyers argued that McCann was "intimately familiar" with Bank of America's long-term strategic plans and that it would lose a lot of business if he went to work for a rival.
The case is McCann v. Bank of America Corp 602628/2009 in New York State Supreme Court (Manhattan)
(Reporting by Grant McCool and Steve Eder; editing by John Wallace)