Not spelling out in your agreements, even in informal agreements, where disputes can be resolved and what law will govern them can lead to some unhappy results. That is exactly the position that United Excel Corporation and its president, Ky Hornbaker, now find themselves.… Keep reading
Two weeks ago, I participated on a panel for a webinar on liquidated damages with three other panelists from New Jersey, Florida and Texas. In preparing with the other panelists, I was surprised to learn that while there are many common threads running through the law of liquidated damages across the country, there also are some startling differences depending upon which jurisdiction’s law controls.… Keep reading
In Part 1 I shared with you five commonly overlooked terms in executive separation agreements. Here are five more.
6. Release Timing. If the executive is excused from performing work or coming to the office well before her last day of employment, the company may want to have the executive sign an agreement close to the day the executive is notified about her separation because the company will remain exposed to liability for the period of time between the executive’s signing the separation agreement and her actual last day. In addition, I recommend having the executive sign a second release on her actual last day of employment – and make signing that second release contingent upon receiving any post-termination severance benefits.
7. Post-Termination Restrictive Covenants and the Integration Clause. Many agreements contain a boilerplate integration provision, reciting that the agreement is the entire agreement between the parties and that the executive is not relying on anything not contained in the written document. If the executive has signed a prior agreement containing restrictive covenants which are intended to survive termination of the executive’s employment, such a general integration clause could void the prior post-termination restrictive covenants. An alternative … Keep reading
In Commodity Futures Trading Comm’n v. Weintraub, the United States Supreme Court noted that:
[W]hen control of a corporation passes to new management, the authority to assert and waive the corporation’s attorney-client privilege passes as well. New managers installed as a result of a takeover, merger, loss of confidence by shareholders, or simply normal succession, may waive the attorney-client privilege with respect to communications made by former officers and directors. Displaced managers may not assert the privilege over the wishes of current managers, even as to statements that the former might have made to counsel concerning matters within the scope of their corporate duties. [Emphasis added.]
While the foregoing may not seem too surprising to some, what if I told you that the new owners of a business can waive the privilege with respect to communications that the former owners had with company counsel solely to use those communications as evidence against the former owners in litigation? Well, that is exactly what the Delaware Court of Chancery recently allowed to happen in Great Hill Equity Partners v. Sig Growth Equity Fund, LLP.… Keep reading
Porreca v. The Rose Group was a class action lawsuit brought by Carly Porreca and Charles Walton, alleging that their employer, Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar, had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. After Porreca was dismissed from the lawsuit, the restaurant management company that owned and operated the Applebee’s at which Porreca and Walton worked, the Rose Group, sought a stay of the litigation as well as an order (i) compelling Walton to arbitrate his claim individually, and (ii) barring him from pursuing a class action in that arbitration. In support of this request, the Rose Group relied on the fact that Walton had signed an agreement binding him to the company’s Dispute Resolution Program, which specifically stated the following:
The Company and I agree that all legal claims or disputes covered by the Agreement must be submitted to binding arbitration …. We also agree that any arbitration between the Company and me is of an individual claim and that any claim subject to arbitration will not be arbitrated on a collective or a classwide basis ….
… Keep reading
As we have previously posted in Choice of Law in a Contract Can Be Critical, Ensuring Your Dispute Is Resolved in the Forum You Want Is Not Always Easy, and Selection of Forum Other Than Massachusetts May Not Avoid Wage Act Enforcement, choice of law and forum selection provisions should be conscious decisions made in the context of each specific contract. If in-house counsel do not carefully draft these provisions in their independent contractor or consulting agreements, they may be overlooking a possible means of avoiding or minimizing liability in Massachusetts under the so-called Massachusetts Independent Contractor Law (M.G.L. c. 149, §148B), the Massachusetts Weekly Payment of Wages Act (M.G.L. c. 149, §148) and/or the Massachusetts minimum wage and overtime laws. Because these statutes do not contain any explicit geographic restriction on their application, their applicability to non-Massachusetts residents performing work outside of Massachusetts for Massachusetts companies has been unsettled. (I have previously posted here and here on the staggering ramifications of misclassifying a worker as an independent contractor in Massachusetts.)
In Taylor v. Eastern Connection Operating, Inc., the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court took up the issue of whether New York residents who perform … Keep reading
Memorializing an agreement in a written contract serves two primary purposes. First and foremost, a written contract should clearly set out the deal terms so that there is little or no chance of a misunderstanding as to what the parties’ rights and obligations are. Further, to be sure that they get the deal terms right, in-house counsel often turn to business people involved in the deal because they are the experts on the deal terms.
The second reason to have a written contract is to set out the “Rules of Engagement” that will apply if a dispute arises between the parties. Such Rules, on which I have written in other posts, include choice of law provisions, forum selection clauses, liquidated damages provisions, and arbitration clauses, just to name a few. Surprisingly, however, and in contrast to in-house counsels’ willingness to consult with business people about the deal terms in a contract, in-house counsel often are reluctant to consult with experts on the Rules of Engagement, i.e., experienced litigators. Whether the reason for this is a psychological aversion to placing too much emphasis on what might go wrong with a deal before it is fully in … Keep reading
In a post this summer, I raised three issues employers may want to consider before even requesting that an employee execute a covenant not to compete. One issue that I did not mention is whether the company’s employee lives and works in California. Although where an employee lives may be relevant, contrary to what many attorneys think, it may be possible for a Massachusetts company to enforce a non-compete against a California resident.… Keep reading
After putting all of the specific deal points into a new contract, you are just about finished. All you have to do now is add in the “Miscellaneous” section with all of your boilerplate provisions like force majeure, choice of law and a few others. You have drafted so many contracts for so many years that you do not even know where some of these boilerplate provisions came from, let alone remember all of the implications of each. Even more dangerous, there may be some boilerplate provisions on which you rely that may not be as enforceable as you think. Take, for example, a standard clause appearing in many contracts stating the following: “Nothing in this Agreement is intended to create any enforceable right in favor of any non-party to this Agreement.”
For sure there is no downside to including such a clause in a contract. Indeed, Professor Corbin, one of the preeminent authorities on contract law has said, “If two contracting parties expressly provide that some third party who will be benefited by performance shall have no legally enforceable right, the courts should effectuate the expressed intent by denying the party any direct remedy.” (Corbin on … Keep reading
Often, one of the last provisions in a contract will say:
This contract shall be governed and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of ______.”
Most courts will abide by the parties’ choice and apply the law designated by them – even if the law selected is not from the state where the case is being tried. It is only in limited situations, such as (i) where application of the selected law would undermine a significant public policy of the jurisdiction where suit is filed, or (ii) if the locale of the law selected has no relation to the parties or the dispute, that a court is unlikely to abide by the parties’ choice of governing law.
Why should in-house counsel care about choice of law? Well, while most states may have similar common law with respect to garden variety contract or tort claims, all states have statutory claims that only can be pursued if their own law is applicable.… Keep reading