Thursday, July 4, 2013
There have been a few articles over the past few days about Bobby Bonilla's contract with the New York Mets. Bonilla played for the Mets until he retired in 2001. At that point, he still had $5.9 million outstanding on his contract. Rather than giving Bonilla a lump sum payment, the Mets opted to pay him start paying him in 2011. The Mets are to pay Bonilla a total of $29.8 million over 25 years.
Cork Gaines of the Business Insider explains that this was a good deal for the Mets in terms of their bottom line on the Bonilla contract. Assuming an 8% rate of return, the long-term payout deal is worth $10 million less over time to Bonilla than would a one-time payout. And, because the Mets had the use for teny years of the $5.9 million that they owed Bonilla until the payouts began in 2011, they were able to invest that money, and the come out at the other end looking pretty good, assuming an 8% annual return on investment and ignoring all other issues, like the tax consequences of the transaction.
In the New York Times, Jeff Z. Klein and Mary Pilon are decidedly less positive about the Bonilla contract, but they dutifully report that all parties involved stil believe they acted in their own best interest. The Times provides some details missing from the Buinsss Insider report. The Mets needed to get Bonilla off their books and out of their clubhouse so that they could free up space under the MLB salary cap and free themselves from an underperforming player who had become a distraction.
We have expressed our view before that multi-million dollar, multi-year deals for veteran ballplayers are irrational. With baseball mania for statistics, it ought to be possible to fine-tune baseball contracts with incentives so that players actually get paid for performance (you know, like CEOs) rather than getting paid for hitting .250 when they are 35 because they hit .320 when they were 29.
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
The NYT's (new) ethicist, Chuck Klosterman tackled the issue of non-disparagement clauses in last Sunday's magazine (you have to scroll down past the first question about the ethics of skipping commercials). Klosterman stated that, "(n)ondisclosure provisions that stretch beyond a straightforward embargo on business-oriented “trade secrets” represent the worst kind of corporate limitations on individual freedom — no one should be contractually stopped from talking about their personal experiences with any company." He adds, "You did, however, sign this contract (possibly under mild duress, but not against your will)." A non-disparagement clause, however, is quite different from a blanket nondisclosure provision - the ex-employee may presumably talk about her personal experiences, as long as she leaves out the disparaging remarks. "Mild duress" is an oxymoron since duress, by its definition, is not mild and if you sign something under duress, you are signing it against your will. Despite getting the nuances wrong, the advice -- which is basically to say nothing bad but say nothing good either -- is sound. Sometimes silence speaks volumes.
Non-disparagement clauses in settlement agreements are fairly common and I don't think they are necessarily outrageous (it is a settlement agreement afterall). That's not the case with this agreement, posted courtesy of radaronline and discussed at Consumerist. The agreement doesn't contain a non-disparagement clause but still manages to be overreaching. The agreement, purportedly from Amy's Baking Company , requires that its employees work holidays and weekends, and extracts a $250 penalty for no-shows. It also forbids employees from using cell phones, bringing purses and bags to work, and having friends and family visit during working hours. The contract also contains a non-compete clause, prohibiting employees from working for competitors within a 50 mile radius for one year after termination. What the agreement doesn't contain is a non-disparagement clause - and a clause prohibiting employees from sharing the terms of the agreement with others. My guess is that those clauses will probably show up in the next iteration of the contract....
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Erwin Chemerinsky has an op-ed in today's New York Times about three pro-business decisions from the recently-concluded Supreme Court term. He devotes a couple of paragraphs to Concepcion and then talks a little bit at the end about Italian Colors.
The article draws on these three opinions as examples of the pro-business bent of the current Supreme Court. The cases are in the areas of employment discrimination, product liability and arbitration. In all three areas, the Court made it harder this term for plaintiffs who are trying to sue commercial enterprises to get past a motion to dismiss.
Chemerinsky picks up on Justice Ginsburg's call for a legislative solution, but very few people believe our elected representatives are capable of (or interested in) addressing these issues.
Monday, July 1, 2013
I was traveling this weekend and stayed at a hotel. As we were about to check in, I noticed this sign, which I would surely never have noticed if I did not teach contracts.
Look,much of this may be true whether or not the sign exists, but still I hope that I do not live in a world in which someone can plop down a sign on a parking lot and thereby bind me to whatever terms she chooses to impose. The troublesome word here, of course, is "irrefutable." Since this was an open parking lot that my hotel shared with a number of other hotels, there was no parking attendant. I could have written out a note certifying that my 2001 Camry is immaculate and handed to the people at reception. I expect that would have been flummoxed by such a note. Whether or not my note is accurate, I would regard it as a reasonable response to the sign. I would not want to run the risk of being on the wrong side of an irrefutable presumption, so better to state my claim as sweepingly as possible.
The wicked witch had it right. "What a world, what a world!"