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Showing 8 posts from May 2012.

From the "Wash Your Mouth Out With Soap" Department

From the "Wash Your Mouth Out With Soap" DepartmentNow here’s some #@%! thought-provoking career advice for executives and the people that hire them: cursing at work (or “cussin” as my southern in-laws say) can cut both ways for your career, as reported here in the Wall Street JournalRead More ›

The Inbox - May 25, 2012

This week in suits by suits (and jerseys):

  • Ellen Pao, a partner in the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers has filed a lawsuit alleging sexual discrimination and retaliation.  Pao alleges that she was pressured to have sex with one partner and propositioned by another.  According to Pao, when she reported her complaints to the firm's senior partnership, they retaliated by giving her a smaller share of firm profits, removing her from the board of a startup, and tried to banish her to their China office.
Read More ›

Scott Thompson Shows How Padding Your Resume Could Cost You $10 Million or More

Yahoo!On May 13, 2012 – after just five months on the job – Scott Thompson resigned as CEO of Yahoo! Inc. in response to allegations by “activist” shareholder Dan Loeb of the hedge fund Third Point LLC that Thompson was claiming a computer science degree he did not have.  An internal investigation by Yahoo revealed that Mr. Thompson’s bachelor’s degree from Ston ehill College was in accounting, not “accounting and computer science” as listed both on Mr. Thompson’s resume and in Yahoo filings with the Securites and Exchange Commission.  Thompson – who is also recuperating from surgery for thyroid cancer -- subsequently resigned from the board of directors of software developer Splunk Inc. on May 21 as well. Read More ›

General rule for the executive world, No. 292: if you're going to ask permission to have an affair with someone who works for you, be honest when you ask.

Here’s an interesting story from Joann S. Lublin and Christopher Weaver of the Wall Street Journal about the CEO of medical device company Stryker, who was asked to leave that company over an alleged affair with a flight attendant who worked on the company’s private plane.  In the abstract, it’s not unusual for a well-placed executive to leave when an affair with a subordinate is discovered.  The interesting thing is: CEO Stephen MacMillan asked a committee of the company’s board for approval to conduct the affair once his divorce was final.  He (and his paramour) even followed the committee’s request that the flight attendant leave the company first.  Read More ›

Keith Olbermann, Current TV, and Drafting an Employment Contract

On March 29, 2012, Current TV fired well-known TV personality and “baseball nerd”  Keith Olbermann a little more than one year into Olbermann’s five-year, $50 million contract in which Olbermann would move his political news and commentary program Countdown With Keith Olbermann from MSNBC to the fledgling Current TV network founded by former Vice President Al Gore and entrepreneur and politician Joel Hyatt.  Current’s termination letter alleges numerous material breaches of contract by Olbermann (described below) as a basis for its decision. Read More ›

Repudiation 101 Courtesy of Claudia DiFolco and MSNBC

In part two of our series on suits brought by Hollywood actresses against TV networks, we feature a case brought by Claudia DiFolco, actress and host of the one-time reality series My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance, against her former employer MSNBC.  Whether Hollywood actresses will continue to bring cases that perfectly illustrate black-letter legal concepts like repudiation remains to be seen. 

DiFolco v. MSNBC – and the decisions that it generated in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in particular – serves as a reminder to companies and executives alike that even seemingly airtight employment contracts can be for naught if the parties “repudiate” them by future conduct, making their provisions unenforceable. Read More ›

The Inbox - May 16, 2012

Here's a roundup of this week's news involving suits by suits:

  • An insurance company can’t subpoena its former employees’ private e-mail and phone records from Yahoo and Verizon, says a U.S. magistrate judge. Judge Geraldine Brown ruled that the subpoenas violated the Stored Communications Act, which she said creates a zone of privacy to protect against disclosure to unauthorized parties. If the employees’ Yahoo inboxes are anything like mine, the subpoenas would have just turned up a bunch of spam anyway.  Courthouse News Service.
Read More ›


From Left: P. Andrew Torrez, Jason M. Knott, Ellen D. Marcus, William A. Schreiner, Jr.Today we are launching Suits by Suits, a legal blog about disputes between companies and their executives. The four of us are colleagues and lawyers who sometimes wear suits and who sometimes represent clients who sometimes wear suits. We also share an interest in how conflicts between companies and high-ranking employees can play out in the legal arena.

So, for example, when we see a headline about Desperate Housewives star Nicollette Sheridan’s lawsuit against ABC for wrongful termination – which, by the way, recently ended in a mistrial but has been set for a new trial to begin in September – we read the story. Then we dig deeper because, to us, this case is not just about a Hollywood celebrity, it is a suit by suit.

We want to know whether the jury was persuaded by Ms. Sheridan’s theory that her character was killed off and she was written off the show because she complained about being assaulted on the set by the show’s creator Marc Cherry.

We want to know whether the judge accepted Ms. Sheridan’s legal theory that being fired for complaining about an assault violates California public policy that employees have a right to a workplace free of violence and threats of violence.

We want to know whether ABC was able to prove that its plans to kill off Ms. Sheridan’s character were hatched long before Ms. Sheridan complained about Mr. Cherry.

We want to know whether there are any really devastating e-mails – to either side – and whether the jury is going to get to see them, or the judge will find them inadmissible.

We want to know whether any D&O insurance is available to pay Mr. Cherry’s legal fees in the case. Okay, maybe Bill is the only one who wants to know that.

Are we the only ones?

Ellen, Jason, Andrew and Bill