The Inbox – Ramping Up Edition

| Jason M. Knott

No, this headline is not a pun about the closed on-ramps to the George Washington Bridge.  Rather, it’s meant to acknowledge that as the New Year gets into full swing, folks are starting to ramp up their analysis of ongoing issues in disputes that involve executives and their employers.  We’ve seen a number of interesting stories and summaries cross our desk:

  • Ben James of Law360 published a thorough recap of the lingering questions about Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower protections.  We’ve got one more question: will the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in Lawson v. FMR LLC (we covered the oral argument here) affect a whistleblower’s choice between initially pursuing a Dodd-Frank claim in federal court, or filing a Sarbanes-Oxley claim with the Department of Labor?  Right now, some courts are putting a narrow construction on who can sue under Dodd-Frank, so if the Lawson Court takes an expansive view of Sarbanes-Oxley, it may give new life to that statute as an appealing option for whistleblowers.
  • What’s not ramping up: romance in the home of the new president of Alabama State University.  Debra Cassins Weiss of ABA Journal reports that Gwendolyn Boyd, who is single, will not be allowed to “cohabit with a romantic partner in the university residence so long as she is single,” according to her employment contract.  Boyd says she has “no issue” with the provision.  Sorry, suitors.  (Which, by the way, would be a good name for our group of loyal readers.)
  • The Second Circuit affirmed a district court’s dismissal of a former employee’s suit against Bloomberg, based on a clause in that employee’s contract that specified an English forum and the application of English law.  Forum selection clauses are a hot issue right now, thanks to the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Atlantic Marine Construction Co. v. United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, 134 S. Ct. 568 (2013).  In that case, the Court confirmed that federal courts should grant a motion to transfer to another federal court when there’s a forum-selection clause choosing that forum, “except in unusual cases.”  When the clause chooses a state or foreign forum, however, transfer is unavailable, so dismissal may be the only option.  To be sure, this is an issue that will ramp up in 2014.
  • Six former employees of the Borough of North York, Pennsylvania, including the county manager, have sued for $950,000 in severance pay, reports Greg Gross of the York Dispatch.  That’s a lot of green: the Borough’s entire 2014 budget is just barely more than that.
  • But if you really want to talk green, Jeff Bercovici of Forbes reports that the severance package for Henrique De Castro, Yahoo!’s fired COO, will pay him $109 million -- $244,000 for every day he spent on the job (including weekends).  Four days’ worth, and he could operate the Borough of North York, Pennsylvania for a year.