By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) - Fred Alger Management Inc failed on Thursday to win dismissal of a whistleblower lawsuit by a former portfolio manager who said she was fired in retaliation for protesting that the money manager's trading policy benefited colleagues at her expense.
District Judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan said that Rosanne Ott, who ran the New York-based firm's Alger Health Sciences fund from 2005 until her January 2011 firing, could pursue her wrongful termination claim. Several other claims were dismissed.
The lawsuit is one of the earliest brought after the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reforms banned companies from retaliating against whistleblowers, including those like Ott who provided the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission with information about alleged violations of securities laws.
Alger was founded in 1964 and had about $16.2 billion of assets under management as of June 30, according to its website.
Scott Anderson, an Alger spokesman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Todd Norbitz, a lawyer for Alger and its Chief Executive Daniel Chung, also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Ott, a former U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter pilot, claimed that Chung in April 2010 instituted a policy that let some fund managers place trades for their funds ahead of her, and forcing her to get permission to make trades.
She said this helped other funds but not hers to perform better, in what a colleague likened to "sabotage."
Ott said she filed a formal complaint with the SEC on September 7, 2010. She said that soon afterward, she was subjected to harassment, saw her bonus reduced by 92 percent, and was replaced as head of Alger's health care group. She sued in June 2011.
Alger contended that the lawsuit should be dismissed, saying that Ott had "contrived a controversy" regarding the trading policy, amid increased strains with the firm that had stemmed from her "deteriorating professional performance."
Preska dismissed nine of Ott's 10 claims, including claims over bonuses and an alleged failure to pay deferred compensation that had yet to vest at the time of the firing.
But she said there was enough evidence that Ott reasonably believed that the trading policy was illegal, and that her complaints contributed to the loss of her job.
Preska cited a September 2010 conversation from the lawsuit in which Chung supposedly told a co-worker, referring to Ott: "You know, Rose is wrong and the board supports me. She is gonna start feeling the heat."
The judge said: "It is fair to infer from this statement that Chung was referring to Ott's position on the trading policy and her reports to the SEC. At the pleading stage, this allegation is sufficient."
The case is Ott v. Fred Alger Management Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-04418.
(Reporting By Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Ken Wills)