Harry and Meghan-backed investment firm Ethic sued rival bank after it ‘tried to hijack their brand’
They pride themselves on their laid back, hippy ethos but Prince Harry and Meghan’s new banker pals were quick to call in lawyers when another firm allegedly tried to hijack their woke brand, DailyMail.com can exclusively reveal.
The founding trio behind $1.3billion ‘socially aware’ investment firm Ethic Inc. launched a legal battle early last year when another business decided to name itself ‘Ethic: A Wealth Bank’.
Jay Lipman, Doug Scott and Johny Mair – seen outside their New York offices Thursday in exclusive DailyMail.com pictures – registered the word Ethic in 2017 to protect their ‘top notch’ brand of investment, advisory and management services.
But according to the suit, they were stunned to learn two years later that Boston-based Admirals Bancorp had lodged a successful application with the US Patent and Trademark Office to use both ‘Ethic’ and ‘Ethic: A Wealth Bank’.
Two of Ethic’s co-founders Doug Scott and Johny Mair were seen outside their New York offices Thursday in exclusive DailyMail.com pictures
Court filings obtained by DailyMail.com reveal the three founders launched a legal battle early last year when another business decided to name itself ‘Ethic: A Wealth Bank’
Ethic Investment Banking founder Jay Lipman walks near his office in Tribeca, Manhattan on Thursday
‘Defendants’ Website also emphasizes its commitment to socially conscious investing, a clear overlap with Ethic’s established business,’ Ethic’s attorneys said in a federal complaint filed in Massachusetts.
‘As stated on the homepage of Defendants’ Website, the term ‘wealth’ is described as ‘The values you uphold. The relationships you cultivate. The experiences you share. The assets you grow. The legacy you leave behind.’
The January 2020 suit alleges that Bancorp and its sister organization, Ethic Wealth Advisors, ‘mislead’ officials about what their new brand would do, insisting there was no overlap.
The trio registered the word ethic in 2017 to protect their ‘top notch’ brand of investment and advisory services
In reality, they were ‘aggressively’ offering similar socially-minded investment services, it was claimed.
Ethic sought an injunction preventing Admirals Bancorp from using the name but the rival outfit denied the allegations and the case seemed destined for jury trial before a settlement was reached in September last year.
It’s not clear how they overcame their differences as lawyers for both firms did not return calls for comment, however the website for ‘Ethic: A Wealth Bank’ – slogan: Values, Not Just Valuations – is still online.
The legal fracas does not seem to have impacted Delaware-registered Ethic, which announced this week that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – no strangers to litigation themselves – would be joining as ‘impact partners’.
The filed a legal complaint against Boston-based Admirals Bancorp after learning it lodged a successful application with the US Patent and Trademark Office to use both ‘Ethic’ and ‘Ethic: A Wealth Bank’ (pictured: the firm’s website)
The financial terms of the partnership, the latest potentially lucrative corporate pact the couple have inked since branching out on their own and settling in California, have not been revealed.
Harry and Meghan insist they are only investing in organizations that align with their ‘values’ on racial injustice, climate change and equity.
DailyMail.com revealed earlier Wednesday that British finance guru Lipman, 33, had struck up a friendship with the 37-year-old Prince and had even hung out at the Sussex’s’ Los Angeles mansion.
Both men share a passion for rugby and the environment and Lipman also grew up just 20 miles from Eton College, the elite British boarding school the Duke of Sussex attended with his brother Prince William.
Lipman’s mom, 70, told DailyMail.com her son was a successful Wall Street banker living a ‘lavish’ life in New York before declaring he was ‘very disgruntled at the fat cats getting fatter’.
He moved to San Francisco where he linked up with Australians Scott and Mair, who worked for banks investing in gas and oil prior to 2015.
They trio then hit the bigtime with their idea of an ethical tech-based investment start-up that only pours money into companies with worthy environmental and social goals.
The January 2020 suit alleges that Bancorp and its sister organization, Ethic Wealth Advisors, ‘mislead’ officials about what their new brand would do, insisting there was no overlap
Ethic sought an injunction preventing Admirals Bancorp from using the name
DailyMail.com approached Lipman outside Ethic’s corporate offices in Manhattan on Wednesday afternoon to ask more about the company’s story but he politely gave us the brush off.
‘We’re back to back for the rest of the day,’ the smartly-dressed Harry lookalike said with a smile. ‘Thank you so much for coming.’
Wearing khakis, boots and a salmon sweater, the self-declared hippy appeared to have smartened up his act since his days of sporting a scraggly ginger beard and wearing tye-dye shirts.
Mair, who is married to marketing exec Negar Athari, was more in keeping with the firm’s hipster roots, however, heading to work in low-slung shorts, sneakers, his wispy beard billowing in the breeze and his long hair tied back with a bandana.
Ethic leases the second floor of an eight-story brownstone in an area of the trendy Tribeca neighborhood drubbed ‘hipster central’.
The minimalist chic décor includes polished concrete floors, oversized pot plants and reclaimed lumber furniture. It’s also directly above a boutique bakery where the company’s casually dressed staff go for pastries and freshly ground organic coffee.
The investment firm announced this week that Harry and Meghan would be joining as ‘impact partners’
Jay’s mother Marilyn and eldest son Stef, 37, spoke to MailOnline and said: ‘He’s a fun-loving hippie banker. He might not say it himself but that’s what he is’
250 Broadway, where the Ethic Investment Banking office is located in Tribeca, Manhattan, New York
The building’s owner declined to be named but told DailyMail.com that Ethic was looking to double the size of its operation, which includes several dogs among its employees: Roux and Gigi, apparently responsible for ‘security’, and Byron, Ethic’s ‘Chief Smile Officer’.
The animals regularly attend team meetings, which begin with encouraging staff to ‘throw out a thank-you to someone who helped them that week’.
‘It gives everyone a chance to highlight each other’s contributions and feel good about the work being done,’ a post on the firm’s website says.
‘They’ve been asking me for more space,’ the landlord revealed. ‘They want to take a whole other floor.’
When asked whether he had ever spotted Harry and Meghan on the premises, he joked: ‘I don’t follow British royalty. Too bad we can’t raise the rent.’
The co-founders of Ethic, Johny Mair (pictured left) and Jay Lipman, say they ‘love hippies’ to invest with them, because the team consider themselves hippies too. Today it was reported that it has invested in Twitter, Facebook and YouTube’s owner Google for clients
On Friday it was reported that the ‘sustainable’ investment firm owns shares in Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corp and the makers of the world’s most deadly laser-guided missiles.
SEC filings from August also reveal that Ethic has ploughed millions of dollars into oil, gas, mining companies, airlines, as well as firms that so-called ethical investment guides rate poorly including Amazon and the owners of Boots the chemists.
Among the investments are $216,000 worth of shares in Raytheon which boasts that its Paveway laser guided bombs made up more than half the ordinance dropped on Iraq during the American invasion.
Ethic has defended itself against charges of hypocrisy despite its branding that leans heavily on the language of left-wing political activism on issues such as climate change and fighting global poverty.
It claims it is different from other ‘ethical’ investment funds because it lets customers choose their political priorities for investments and provides them with custom portfolios to match.
A spokeswoman provided the example of a customer whose primary concern is ‘poverty’ – saying ‘of course certain pharmaceutical companies would be flagged for removal (and they are for many of our clients due to drug pricing issues).’
But some of the holdings among its $1.3bn under management are in sharp contrast with the Sussexes’ green campaigning, with Harry writing in the Washington Post just today that firms must stop ‘pillaging’ Africa for oil in countries such as Botswana where he and Meghan had ‘found sanctuary’.
Harry and Meghan’s latest move into big business came after they secured deals with Netflix and Spotify, reportedly worth $150 million.
The couple announced their latest tie-up with a statement that claimed: ‘When we invest in each other we change the world’.
In a joint interview with the New York Times, Meghan, 40, added: ‘From the world I come from, you don’t talk about investing, right? You don’t have the luxury to invest. That sounds so fancy.’
‘My husband has been saying for years: ‘Gosh, don’t you wish there was a place where if your values were aligned like this, you could put your money to that same sort of thing?’
Some of the companies that ‘ethical’ Meghan and Harry-backed Wall Street firm has investments in
A Houston-based company engaged in exploration, development and acquisition of oil and natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico
OIL STS INTL INC
An American multinational corporation providing services to oil and gas companies.
BAKER HUGHES COMPANY
One of the world’s largest oil field services companies
ALASKA AIR GROUP INC
Group owns Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air and ground handling company, McGee Air Services.
GENERAL MTRS CO
One of the world’s biggest motor companies including Chevrolet, Buick, GMC & Cadillac
ONE GAS INC
Provides natural gas distribution services to more than 2 million customers in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas.
NATIONAL FUEL GAS CO
Distributes and transports natural gas to hundreds of thousands of customers in Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania.
HONDA MOTOR LTD
Leading Japanese manufacturer of motorcycles and a major producer of automobiles for the world market
TOYOTA MOTOR CORP
Toyota is one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world, producing about 10 million vehicles per year.
ATMOS ENERGY CORP
Atmos Energy Corporation, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, is one of the United States’ largest natural-gas-only distributors