An Unfortunate Flip of the Bird

     HOUSTON (CN) - A Houston energy trader claims in court that a photo he texted of himself and friends flipping off the camera did not "constitute disparagement," as other traders are claiming, to try to avoid paying $210,000 owed on a settlement.
     Adam Sinn, Eric Torres and Aspire Commodities sued Craig Taylor and Taylor's company Atlas Commodities, in Harris County Court.
     Torres was a 35 percent owner of Atlas Commodities until he sued the company and Taylor for shareholder oppression and reached a settlement in which Atlas agreed to buy him out for $500,000, according to the July 17 complaint, and the original lawsuit.
     Atlas made Sinn, an independent energy trader, a third-party defendant in its legal battle with Torres, which was settled in mediation in August 2012, according to the recent lawsuit.
     The new complaint states: "On December 31, 2013, Sinn hosted a holiday party at his home. Several of Sinn's friends, employees and acquaintances attended the holiday party. During the party, Sinn and several friends took a photograph holding up their middle finger to the camera. Later that evening, Sinn sent the photograph via text message to Craig Taylor. The text message that Sinn sent Craig Taylor did not contain any text."
     It was not long before Sinn came to regret sending the photo.
     "Sinn sincerely apologizes for sending the photograph to Taylor and understands it was not done in good taste. However, sending the photograph to Taylor does not constitute disparagement under the settlement agreement," Sinn says in the complaint.
     The settlement agreement includes a non-disparagement clause that bars the parties from making any "'false, derogatory, slanderous or libelous comments' about Taylor and Atlas."
     Though Torres did not take the photo or send it to anybody, "Taylor and Atlas have used this incident involving Sinn as a pretext to avoid their monthly payment obligations to Torres," according to the complaint.
     Taylor and Atlas have stopped making the $10,000 monthly settlement payments and still owe Torres $210,000, Torres says in the lawsuit.
     The plaintiffs seek up to $1 million for breach of contract.
     They also seek a declaration that "the photograph and text message that Sinn sent ... did not excuse defendants' performance under the settlement agreement."
     XS Capital Management LP is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit.