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If former Globe president wins suit over his ouster, he won't get treble damages for lost share of profits, judge rules

Well compensated Massachusetts executives take note: "Wages" are for working stiffs and don't include any promised share of company profits, so you can't can't get triple damages if you don't get that share and then get fired and sue.

As first reported by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, a Suffolk Superior Court judge has dismissed former Boston Globe President Vinay Mehra's contention the Globe violated the state wage law when it fired him in 2020 and owes him not just the $1 million in "commissions" he claims the Globe screwed him out of but treble damages for violating that law.

The ruling does not halt the rest of Mehra's suit - he can continue to press his case that the Globe broke his contract and fired him because it wanted to cheap out - over some $11 million in alleged losses. But Judge Peter Krupp agreed with the Globe to dismiss the "wages" section of Mehra's lawsuit, because while commission payments are covered by the wage law, profit sharing agreements of the sort Mehra had are not.

Krupp wrote that "commissions" under Massachusetts law are paid to employees for their direct sales of things, and what Mehra is claiming he is owed came not from directly selling something but instead from doing what any executive might do, to oversee the work of others as well as whatever it was he did, and that was what was in his contract:

Mehra's compensation agreement, as alleged, expressly entitled him to a share of the Globe's profits not a percentage of revenues he personally generated.

Plus, Krupp added in a footnote, Mehra was seeking compensation for profits for the six months of 2020 after he was fired, and if he wasn't even at the Globe then, "the Globe's profits for calendar year 2020 therefore necessarily involved, and were contingent on, the efforts and activities of others."

Mehra claims the Globe hired him in 2017 to right the money-losing vessel it had become and that he did so - only, he charges, he did so too well and John and Linda Henry decided they didn't want to pay him his promised cut of profits that were exceeding anybody's expectations, so they concocted a series of fabricated "performance" reasons to boot him in 2020.

The Globe retorts it needed to ditch Mehra not because he was doing too well turning a profit but because he was guilty of "expense abuse," for example, creating a Globe fund to feed front-line pandemic workers, then spending $400,000 of that buying meals from a friend's restaurant and sending most of the meals to institutions his wife was involved in that had nothing to do with front-line Covid fighting.

One of the early squabbles in the court case came when the Globe subpoenaed WGBH, where Mehra once worked, for records after it said, an executive there dropped a dime and alerted the Globe that the station had fire Mehra for similar infractions.

Mehra sought to quash the subpoena saying the Globe was involved in a fishing expedition that would unduly burden the station. The Globe volleyed back it was only looking for information specifically related to Mehra's termination and that the station's lawyer had told its lawyer assembling the requested documents would be no problem. A judge ultimately ruled the Globe could request the information, but that it would be placed under seal rather than become any part of a public record.

Judge's ruling (364k PDF).
Mehra's request to block WGBH subpoena (1.6M PDF).
Globe response to Mehra motion (517k PDF).

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