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John Vaughn

Co-founder and Principal

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John Vaughn, Breakaway Partners’ co-founder, has a diverse national practice, both as a counselor and a trial lawyer, in the financial services industry.  Clients regularly seek Mr. Vaughn’s counsel and expertise in complex litigation matters, securities fraud claims, employment disputes, FINRA arbitrations, SEC investigations, broker disciplinary actions, injunction cases, non-competition disputes, and trade secret cases.

Mr. Vaughn has handled dozens of cases on behalf of both individuals and institutions before FINRA (NASD, NYSE), the SEC, AAA, JAMS, state and federal courts. His practice includes counseling financial institutions and financial advisors during employment transitions; prosecuting and defending suitability claims, as well as claims for breach of contract, unfair business practices, and misappropriation of trade secrets (both in federal court and before FINRA arbitration panels); prosecuting and defending raiding claims; and representing clients subject to FINRA/SEC reviews, investigations and examinations, working directly with FINRA/the SEC on behalf of such clients.

Mr. Vaughn has successfully transitioned thousands of financial advisors in virtually every jurisdiction of the United States.  These transitions have included single advisors to teams of 25+ persons.  The departing and arriving platforms have included every large traditional wire house in the country (Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, etc.), some of the country’s largest RIAs, smaller RIA platforms, local banking institutions, and brand new business formations.  Mr. Vaughn is well respected in the industry and, in light of his 25 years of experience, has significant relationships with inside counsel and decision-makers that often add value to the likelihood of a successful transition.  Moreover, again as a result of his years of experience, Mr. Vaughn has a deep understanding of the cultures and appetites for litigation of the larger platforms which aids in the assessment of, and preparation for, risk.

In the area of employment disputes, Mr. Vaughn represents individuals and major corporations in matters involving restrictive covenants, protection of trade secrets and confidential information, fiduciary duty and the duty of loyalty, professional employment agreements and other matters relating to employee resignations and terminations, and the movement of employees, partners or shareholders between firms.  He has significant experience as litigation lead counsel and has successfully tried numerous cases to completion, in both state and federal court, involving claims of securities and common-law fraud, unfair business practices, fiduciary duty disputes, officer/director disputes, trade secret, trademark, trade dress disputes and other business-related torts. He has successfully briefed and argued cases before the California Court of Appeal and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second, Fifth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits, and is a member of the bar of the United States Supreme Court.

Mr. Vaughn’s financial services clients include multi-national Fortune 100 corporations, large national corporations, closely held businesses, brokers (registered representatives) and individual entrepreneurs.  In addressing both brokers’ and investors’ rights issues, Mr. Vaughn has been quoted by the press in publications that include the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Reuters and the Dow Jones Business News, and has spoken at the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association annual meetings. Mr. Vaughn has authored and co-authored numerous articles for multiple publications including, most recently, a chapter on the duties of financial advisors for the CEB Practice Guide “Understanding Fiduciary Duties in Business Entities” published by the University of California Press in 2016-2020.

Prior to establishing Breakaway Partners, Mr. Vaughn was a partner at McKenna Long & Aldridge, LLP where he founded and chaired the firm’s FINRA Dispute Resolution Practice Group. Prior to McKenna, Mr. Vaughn was a partner at Luce Forward Hamilton & Scripps, LLP where he chaired the firm-wide Complex Business Litigation Department.

Practice Areas

  • RIA Formation
  • Practice Migration
  • Employment Issues
  • Financial Industry Dispute Resolution
  • Business and Commercial Litigation


  • Santa Clara University School of Law, Santa Clara, California
    • J.D. – 1983-1986
    • Honors: With Honors
  • University of Tennessee
    • 1986-1988
  • California State University at Fullerton, California
    • B.A. – 1988
    • Honors: summa cum laude
    • Honors: Highest Honors
    • Major: English Literature
    • Major: Psychology

Bar Admissions

  • California, 1994
  • Tennessee, 1992
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 11th Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 9th Circuit
  • U.S. District Court Central District of California
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of California
  • U.S. District Court Northern District of California
  • U.S. District Court Southern District of California
  • U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia
  • U.S. Supreme Court

Past Positions

  • McKenna Long & Aldridge, LLP, Partner, 2011 to 2016
  • Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps, LLP, Partner, 1997 to 2011
  • Boult, Cummings, Conners & Berry LLP, Associate, 1992 to 1997
  • Honorable William Ingram, United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Law Clerk, 1990 to 1992


  • AV Preeminent 5.0 out of 5.0 Peer Review Rated, Martindale-Hubbell
  • Southern California Super Lawyer, Securities Litigation, Super Lawyers
  • San Diego Super Lawyer, Business Litigation and Securities Litigation, Super Lawyers
  • Top Lawyer of Southern California, Los Angeles Magazine
  • Top Lawyer, Business Litigation, Martindale-Hubbell, San Diego Magazine
  • Top Rated Lawyer, Intellectual Property, Martindale-Hubbell, The American Lawyer and Corporate Counsel Magazine
  • San Francisco Top-Rated Lawyer, San Francisco Chronicle and The Wall Street Journal

Professional Affiliations

  • American Bar Association, Member
  • American Inns of Court, Louis M. Welsh Chapter, Barrister
  • Association of Business Trial Lawyers of America, Member
  • National Institute for Trial Advocacy Advocates Association, Member
  • Federal Bar Association, Member
  • U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) Bar Association, Member
  • California Bar Association, Member
  • Tennessee Bar Association, Member
  • San Diego County Bar Association, Member
  • San Diego Intellectual Property Law Association, Member
  • Defense Research Institute, Member

Published Works

  • Understanding Fiduciary Duties in Business Entities, University of California Press, 2016 - 2024