MANHATTAN (CN) — A former executive claims in a federal lawsuit that Thomson Reuters fired him for speaking out against misleading financial information prepared for investors in a $3 billion deal.
According to Bennett Smith's lawsuit, the former vice president of applications, e-commerce and enterprise workflow was fired by Thomson Reuters after he expressed discomfort at the media company's demands to minimize and remove certain risks and costs from sales presentations related to an upcoming investor deal valued at about $3 billion.
Invoking the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and New Jersey's Conscientious Employee Protection Act, Smith's complaint alleges he was fired "because he objected to and opposed unlawful business practices that constituted fraud and that violated United States securities laws, including but not limited to, rules and regulations that prohibit presenting false and misleading information to potential investors."
According the complaint, which was filed Monday in Manhattan federal court, concerns over the overstated revenue and projections that Smith considered to be fraudulent misrepresentation were dismissed as business costs that would be "the buyer's problem to deal with."
Thomson Reuters, the self-described "Answer Company" whose promotional materials claim the mass media company is "obsessed" with factual integrity, employed Smith at its Bergen County, N.J., office.
Smith claims he first expressed his discomfort at presenting misleading charters in March of this year. In response to his hesitance, Smith was allegedly told by Bahman Koohestani, Thomson Reuters' chief technology officer of the intellectual property and science division, that, "This is the movie you're in," and "You own it."
Koohestani, who is not named as a defendant, directed Thomson Reuters' staff to "soften the language" of potentially negative line items and remove side comments, certain explicit complexities, risks and costs added by contributing teams, according to the complaint.
Smith objected, saying that the company was overstating product development and revenue projections, he claims. He says he was fired days later.
"No legitimate reasons existed to terminate plaintiff's employment," Smith's lawsuit states.
Smith also accuses Thomson Reuters of breach of contract for allegedly not paying his sign-on bonus and accrued severance, totaling $489,000.
He seeks compensatory and punitive damages, and is represented by Daniel Kaiser at Kaiser, Saurborn & Mair in Manhattan.
Representatives from Thomson Reuters did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Last year, the media company was hit with a class-action lawsuit by a group of reporters, editors and photographers who claimed they were denied overtime compensation and basic benefits.
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