Maryland planner Martin A. Smith has done his studying and hopes to earn his CFP credentials soon. But already Smith has had a lesson that some CFPs never get: how to hire the right lawyer.

Smith's education began in September 2010, when his former employer, Ameriprise Financial Services, filed a petition against him in federal court, seeking to confirm an $82,000 award it had won in 2009 at a FINRA arbitration hearing. In its petition, Ameriprise claimed Smith was required to return that sum, which he had received as a signing bonus, or forgivable loan, when he began his employment in 2007.

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