Motorola 90210

Plot thickens in court fight

By Steve Rhodes
|  Friday, Apr 10, 2009  |  Updated 9:00 AM CDT
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Motorola 90210

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Hey, did you see the latest about Moto?

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The fight Motorola has on its hands in Cook County Circuit Court against its former chief financial officer is serious business of the utmost kind, but it has all the elements of a soap opera guaranteed to bring the Schaumburg-based company unwanted attention - and possibly serious harm.

Motorola fired its CFO, Paul Liska, in late January. In turn, Liska filed a wrongful dismissal suit alleging Motorola misdeeds.

According to an SEC filing cited by mocoNews, Motorola said Liska had been "involuntarily terminated for cause" and asked to return his $400,000 cash signing bonus - contrary to public statements both the company and Liska made at the time of their break-up.

The Tribune later revealed that Liska claimed in court papers that he was a victim of “retaliatory discharge" -- meaning he was a whistleblower. But what was he going to blow the whistle on?

The Wall Street Journal reports today that "Motorola Inc.'s former chief financial officer claims he was fired after he questioned the accuracy of financial forecasts for its troubled cellphone unit," according to a whistleblower lawsuit unsealed Thursday.

"The former executive, Paul Liska, filed suit against Motorola on Feb. 20 in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill., saying he grew concerned in late 2008 that 'the executives within the Mobile Devices business were, intentionally or recklessly, materially misstating its 2009 forecasts and strategic plan.' Mr. Liska was referring to statements allegedly made to Motorola's board about the division, which once made up half of Motorola's sales."

Motorola has already fired back, calling Liska a "treacherous officer" who was fired for "serious misconduct and incompetence" and he planned a "scheme designed to portray himself as a whistleblower and demand millions in return for his silence."

The Tribune today reports that Liska says "his former colleagues sought to destroy his reputation with a 'lawyer-concocted fairy tale of jealousy and revenge'."

At least Motorola CEO Sanja Jha can take comfort that he somehow wrangled the highest compensation out of his struggling company as any CEO in America last year - even as it announced in January that it was laying off 4,000 workers.

And that's not a fairy tale nor a soap opera.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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