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Decision could come soon on Don Marsh severance claim

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Don Marsh shouldn’t have to wait long to find out if he can collect his entire $4 million severance or whether he’ll have to return the portion he’s already received from Marsh Supermarkets Inc.

That issue will be decided by Judge Sarah Evans Barker, who presided over the two-week civil trial that saw a federal jury return a $2.2 million judgment against the company’s former CEO.

The late-Friday verdict followed a nearly three-year court battle brought by locally based Marsh Supermarkets, which claimed Don Marsh, 75, used the company as a personal checkbook to finance his global travels and trysts with several mistresses.

Now that the trial is over and the facts have been presented, Barker shouldn’t take long to rule on the countersuit, Don Marsh’s attorney, Andrew McNeil, said Monday morning.

“The issue in front of Judge Barker is one the parties have addressed a few times in the case, so we anticipate a ruling coming fairly soon,” he said.

Barker’s decision will be critical for Don Marsh, who could end up owing his former company as much as $4.2 million if he is forced to give back the portion of his severance he’s already received.

On top of that, Don Marsh revealed during the trial that he owes the Internal Revenue Service more than $500,000 in back taxes.

The company paid him roughly $2 million in severance before halting payments after it said an IRS audit found “disallowed deductions” for personal expenses he racked up from April 2004 to September 2006. The company ultimately paid the IRS a $616,000 penalty.

Don Marsh's attorneys insisted the trips were business-related and within the bounds of his employment contract, prompting the former CEO to countersue the supermarket chain. He claims the company wrongfully halted severance payments following its sale to Sun Capital Partners in September 2006, shorting him $2 million.

Jeff Mallamad, co-chairman of Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP’s labor and employment practice, said the decision will depend on the terms of the contract.

“There can be terms in the contract to give the company the right to cease payments,” said Mallamad, who is not involved in the case. “It could be a 'high crimes and misdemeanors' kind of standard.”

On the other hand, Mallamad expects Don Marsh’s lawyers to argue that the contract doesn’t allow the company to cancel payments and that the company’s board had every opportunity to review his expenses.

McNeil indeed insisted several times during the trial that Marsh Supermarkets’ directors reviewed Don Marsh's expenses and approved them for inclusion in the company’s annual reports.

“We certainly believe in our position, but it’s ultimately up to Judge Barker,” McNeil said. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

The nine-member jury found Friday that Marsh committed breach of contract and fraud, but stopped short of delivering Marsh Supermarkets a total victory.

Although the grocery chain had asked for $1.6 million to cover expenses and penalties related to the IRS audit that focused on Don Marsh's expenses, the jury awarded the company half that amount, saying it shared responsibility.

Besides the $2.1 million in severance Marsh Supermarkets also is hoping to recover, the company believes it’s entitled to $1.8 million in life insurance policy premiums paid on Marsh's behalf.

“Obviously, the jury’s decisions that Mr. Marsh breached his contract and committed fraud are helpful as we go forward in the case to address the ERISA [Employee Retirement Income Security Act] issues,” said David Herzog, one of Marsh Supermarkets’ lawyers.
 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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