Ex-Principal Sues Sovereign Financial –

DENVER – Gail Marmorstein Sweeney is suing her former employer, private equity adviser and funds-of-funds manager Sovereign Financial Services Inc., along with its parent company and two remaining managing principals, claiming she was wrongly dismissed.

In a complaint filed with the Denver District Court, Sweeney’s suit alleges she was inappropriately terminated in April and the former managing principal is seeking a variety of damages, although no dollar figures were cited in the complaint. Sweeney also wants the non-compete clause of her contract to be ruled unenforceable. Sweeney said she does not know the reason for alleged termination.

Sweeney, who joined the firm in 1990, took a leave last spring and retired in July, said Managing Principal Katie Cattanach, who added Sweeney was not fired. Cattanach deferred further comment about the matter to Sovereign’s attorney, Paula Martin, who said the crux of the suit is Sweeney’s assertion that she was “constructively terminated.”

“We vigorously and vehemently deny that and believe she was treated fairly and appropriately,” Martin said. Sovereign has filed a motion to dismiss most of the claims and, at press time, the motion was pending, Martin added.

Sweeney is working as a consultant, primarily with new private equity partnerships that need help positioning themselves in the market. She declined to discuss the suit in detail and referred VCJ to her attorney, Sander Karp, who provided a copy of the complaint.

Cattanach said Sovereign had no plans to directly replace Sweeney. Over the last year, the firm added to its investment staff by hiring a senior investment officer, Heath Cardie, and General Counsel Kristen Alleman. Alleman will be the first person to review possible private equity partnerships the firm could back with its fund-of-funds or recommend to advisory clients. Mary Kelley is the group’s other managing principal.

Late this summer Sovereign put its fund raising effort in gear and by press time had $24 million circled for its second fund-of-funds, Sovereign New Millennium II, Cattanach said.