Citigroup poached a top oil-and-gas dealmaker from Lehman alum Skip McGee's advisory shop. Now he's in the middle of a legal spat.

FILE PHOTO: A view of the exterior of the Citibank corporate headquarters in New York, New York, U.S. May 20, 2015.   REUTERS/Mike Segar/Files

Summary List Placement

A boutique investment bank founded by alumni of Lehman Brothers and Barclays asked a judge to stop one of its oil-and-gas dealmakers from going to work at Citigroup until June, saying Citi is already angling for a key client.

Intrepid Financial Partners sued on January 1 to try to stop a former managing director from taking his acquisition and divestiture skills and contacts to Citibank until June, when his noncompete agreement will lapse. The suit was filed shortly after a similar case Intrepid brought against Fernandez was dismissed on December 30.

But Fernandez already started at Citi, his lawyers said in a Tuesday court filing. The bank said his start date was December 31. Fernandez’s lawyers said the new case should be dismissed and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitrators, who are separately hearing the dispute, should decide whether there should be any consequences.

“By now filing this lawsuit, Plaintiff is engaging in transparent and blatant forum-shopping and attempting to take yet a third bite at the apple,” the lawyers wrote.

Intrepid said Fernandez was bound by a six-month noncompete after he departed on November 30. It alleged that he wouldn’t disclose where he was moving. The bank added that it learned he was hired by Citi only after it was reported in the media in November and Stephen Trauber, a vice chairman and head of global energy at Citi, began contacting executives at a major Intrepid client to try to use Fernandez’s hiring to win more work.

Citi declined to comment other than to confirm Fernandez’s start date.

Skip McGee, Intrepid’s CEO, said in a court filing that Fernandez also knew about a number of Intrepid’s confidential acquisition and divestiture deals and opportunities, and could take them to Citi.

“The client information and valuation information associated with the A&D work Intrepid is performing for those clients is non-public and anyone with access to that information that leaves Intrepid and goes to a competitor can do some real damage to Intrepid,” he said in the filing.

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Intrepid has gotten work on a number of major energy-industry bankruptcies this year. It was hired with Rothschild & Co. to help Lonestar Resources US restructure in an engagement that could result in a shared fee of over $5 million, according to a court filing. Intrepid had also been engaged in the bankruptcies of Chesapeake Energy, Chaparral Energy, Fieldwood Energy, and Rosehill Resources, the filing said.

McGee and Christopher Winchenbaugh founded Intrepid in 2015 after having worked in the upper ranks of Barclays and Lehman Brothers for more than a decade. Their boutique, which has about 47 employees in Houston and New York, has worked on $100 billion in transactions, according to past announcements.

The New York state judge assigned to hear the January 1 case hasn’t made any rulings yet. In a related case Intrepid filed last year, Fernandez said he left because the firm expected him to generate an unrealistic amount of business and because his bonus for 2019 was two-thirds lower than he thought it would be. That case was dismissed December 30.

Intrepid also filed an arbitration claim against Fernandez in November with FINRA, and a decision is expected this month.

Intrepid is represented by the law firm Baker Hostetler, and Fernandez has been represented by Nixon Peabody.

SEE ALSO: We mapped out Citi’s 40 most powerful investment bankers. Here’s our exclusive org chart.

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