United States District Court, D. Maryland
CATHERINE C. BLAKE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
David Kirkwood, who was defrauded of substantial income by
Gary Steciuk, has sued Financial West Investment Group,
Inc. (“FWG”) and Capital Synergy Partners, Inc.
(“CSP”) for fraud, breach of contract, and
negligent supervision. CSP has filed a motion to dismiss for
lack of personal jurisdiction, which has been fully briefed
and will be granted for the reasons stated below.
it appears from the allegations in the complaint that Steciuk
sold numerous annuities to Kirkwood between 2006 and 2010,
when Steciuk was associated with FWG, First Am. Compl. ¶
10-11. In January 2012 Steciuk became a registered
representative of CSP. No new annuities were sold to
Kirkwood, but Steciuk diverted to himself payments from the
annuities that should have gone to Kirkwood. The fraud was
discovered in 2014, and Steciuk was convicted of mail fraud
in 2015. First Am. Compl., Ex. A; Mot. Dismiss, Ex. 2.
Kirkwood asserts that Steciuk acted under the actual or
apparent authority of CSP when he fraudulently diverted
Kirkwood's assets. First Am. Compl. ¶ 13.
defendant challenges personal jurisdiction under Rule
12(b)(2), the burden is on the plaintiff to prove grounds for
personal jurisdiction over the defendant by a preponderance
of the evidence. Mylan Labs, Inc. v. Akzo, NV, 2
F.3d 56, 59-60 (4th Cir. 1993). “When, however, as
here, a district court decides a pretrial personal
jurisdiction motion without conducting an evidentiary
hearing, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing
of personal jurisdiction.” Carefirst of Md., Inc.
v. Carefirst Pregnancy Ctrs., Inc., 334 F.3d 390, 396
(4th Cir. 2003) (citing Combs v. Bakker, 886 F.2d
673, 676 (4th Cir. 1989)). In deciding whether the plaintiff
has made this showing, the court must resolve all disputed
facts and reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.
court may assert either specific or general personal
jurisdiction over non-resident defendants. Specific
jurisdiction may exist where the claim is related to or
arises out of the defendants' contacts with the state.
See Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia v. Hall, 466
U.S. 408, 414 & n.8, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 80 L.Ed.2d 404
(1984). General jurisdiction may exist where the
defendants' contact with the forum state is
“continuous and systematic.” Id. at
414-15 & n. 9 (quoting Perkins v. Benguet Consol.
Mining Co., 342 U.S. 437, 438, 72 S.Ct. 413, 96 L.Ed.
first asserts that general jurisdiction is established
because CSP registered to do business in the state of
Maryland and had a registered representative, Steciuk,
operating in the state. CSP, however, is headquartered in
California, where it maintains its books and records and
where the company's officers and directors normally meet
and coordinate and direct the company's activities.
(Rapp. Decl. ¶ 3, ECF No. 23-2). CSP has no systematic
and continuous contact with Maryland in the form of bank
accounts, property, or advertising (Id. at ¶
4-8). CSP is “at home” in California, not in
Maryland. See Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746,
760 (2014). General jurisdiction has not been shown.
Fourth Circuit has outlined a three-pronged test for
determining whether the exercise of specific jurisdiction
comports with due process. Under this test, courts must
consider “(1) the extent to which the defendant has
purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting
activities in the state; (2) whether the plaintiffs'
claims arise out of those activities directed at the state;
and (3) whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction would
be constitutionally ‘reasonable.'”
Carefirst, 334 F.3d at 397; Consulting
Eng'rs Corp. v. Geometric Ltd., 561 F.3d 273, 277
(4th Cir. 2009).
court will assume without deciding that having a registered
representative in the state could constitute purposeful
availment, but the wrongs done to Kirkwood do not arise out
of that relationship. CSP declares, and Kirkwood does not
dispute, that Kirkwood never opened an account with CSP.
(Rapp Decl. at ¶¶ 9-10; Kirkwood Aff., ECF No. 38-1
at 1-2.) All the annuities were purchased before Steciuk
became associated with CSP. The letter Kirkwood attaches to
his affidavit is on GCS Financial letterhead, and states that
GCS Financial and Capital Synergy are “unaffiliated
entities.” (Kirkwood Aff. Ex. 1, ECF No. 38-1 at 3.)
The other letter is from a third party, Prudential. (Kirkwood
Aff. Ex. 2, ECF No. 38-1 at 4.) Kirkwood offers nothing to
show that CSP represented Steciuk to him as its agent,
particularly in connection with the annuities purchased
before 2012. See Dickerson v. Longoria, 414 Md. 419,
has filed a motion to permit jurisdictional discovery, but he
offers nothing factual to support that request or otherwise
provide any indication that the facts set forth in Rapp's
affidavit are subject to dispute. He has not, for example,
proffered any correspondence from CSP directed to him. An
unsupported legal conclusion that Steciuk was acting with
actual or apparent authority of CSP is not sufficient to
justify the burden of discovery. Carefirst, 334 F.3d
at 402-03 (“When a plaintiff offers only speculation or
conclusory assertions about contacts with a forum state, a
court is within its discretion in denying jurisdictional
wrong done to Kirkwood by Steciuk was reprehensible. That is
not enough, however, to bring CSP into this Maryland
litigation. Accordingly, the claims against CSP will be
dismissed without prejudice for lack of personal
jurisdiction. A separate Order follows.
 Steciuk is now serving a term in