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Eschelbach v. CCF Chaterhouse/Credit Commercial De France

July 25, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Frank Maas, United States Magistrate Judge


I. Introduction

This action is brought by plaintiff Karl Eschelbach ("Eschelbach") against his former employer, defendant CCF Charterhouse/Credit Commercial de France, now known as HSBC/Credit Commercial de France ("CCF"). On January 4, 2006, I granted in part and denied in part CCF's original motion for partial summary judgment ("PSJ"). (See Docket No. 31) ("Order"). Familiarity with that Order is presumed. Following the entry of the Order, CCF moved for reconsideration of a portion thereof, alleging that I "failed to consider controlling decisions and/or facts that if considered would have mandated a different result." (See Docket No. 33 at 1) ("CCF Reconsid. Mem."). More recently, CCF also has moved for summary judgment on Eschelbach's fifth and sixth causes of action, which allege that his termination violated the New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws. (Docket Nos. 39-41).

For the reasons set forth below, CCF's motion for reconsideration is granted. Upon reconsideration, Eschelbach's contract claim is dismissed insofar as he seeks to recover further bonus payments. Additionally, CCF's motion for summary judgment is granted.*fn1

II. Reconsideration

CCF seeks reconsideration of three aspects of my prior Order. First, CCF contends, in connection with Eschelbach's contract claim, that I either "misunderstood or overlooked" the fact that the restructuring of two deals generated by Eschelbach's team resulted in no additional operating income for CCF and, hence, did not entitle him to any further bonus payments. (CCF Reconsid. Mem. at 1). Second, CCF suggests that my ruling that Eschelbach was entitled to pursue a claim under Section 193(1) of the New York State Labor Law, despite his unquestioned status as a CCF executive, "misinterpreted settled New York law" and failed to consider recent controlling New York decisions." (Id. at 2). Finally, CCF argues that I "overlooked" Eschelbach's failure to show that CCF took any deductions from his wages in violation of that statute.*fn2 (Id.).

A. Applicable Standard

The standard for granting a motion for reconsideration "is strict, and reconsideration will generally be denied unless the moving party can point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked -- matters, in other words, that might reasonably be expected to alter the conclusion reached by the court." Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995) (citing Schonberger v. Serchuk, 742 F. Supp. 108, 119 (S.D.N.Y. 1990)). A motion for reconsideration is not "an opportunity to 'reargue those issues already considered when a party does not like the way the original motion was resolved.'" Am. Hotel Int'l Group Inc. v. One Beacon Ins. Co., No. 01 Civ. 0654 (RCC), 2005 WL 1176122, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. May 18, 2005) (quoting In re Houbigant, Inc., 914 F. Supp. 997, 1001 (S.D.N.Y.1996)). Consequently, an abiding conviction that the issue was wrongly decided is not enough to warrant reconsideration; rather, the issue must have been wrongly decided because the court overlooked important decisions or facts.

B. Contract Claim

The April 5, 2000 letter ("2000 Letter") furnished to Eschelbach sets forth the salient points of his compensation package going forward, but is hardly a model of clarity. Insofar as relevant to the present motions, the 2000 Letter provided that:

. . . Based on the 2000 business plan discussed with you, your bonus will be computed as a percentage of the operating income generated by new deals closed in year 2000 except for the [Hewlett-Packard] transaction closed in February that has already been taken into consideration for the bonus paid in year 2000.

For transactions closed on or before June 30, 2000, the percentage to be applied to the operating income (received, earned or accrued) recognized in 2000 will be 2.9 %.

For deals closed after June 30, 2000 and before December 31, 2000, the percentage to be applied to the operating income recognized in 2000 will be 1.5 %. Such deals will also be included for your year 2001 bonus to be paid on January 15, 2002, and a percentage of 2.9 %, will be applied [to] the operating income derived from such deals during the first twelve month[s] following the closing dates, reduced by the amount already recognized in the year 2000.

For purposes of this letter, "operating income" means fees, commissions, and pre-tax equivalent spread income (pre-tax equivalent revenue less financing costs) which is either received, earned or accrued prior to year-end. (Affirm. of Sheryl B. Galler, Esq., dated July 5, 2002 ("Galler Affirm."), Ex. C at 1).

Pursuant to the 2000 Letter, Eschelbach therefore was to be paid in two installments (1.5% of operating income as part of his 2000 bonus and 1.4% [2.9% - 1.5%] of operating income as part of his 2001 bonus) for deals, such as the Merck transaction, that closed in the second half of 2000, but prior to December 15, 2000. For deals that closed in the first half of 2000, Eschelbach was to receive the entire 2.9% as part of his 2000 bonus.*fn3

It is undisputed that the deals involving Merck and Hewlett-Packard were "redone" in the second half of 2000 for tax reasons. (See Order at 17; Feb. 23, 2006 Tr. ("Tr.") at 23). While this generated no new operating income, Eschelbach takes the position that CCF would not have earned any income had the deals not been restructured. (Tr. at 18-19). For this reason, he views the restructured deals as "new" deals entitling him to additional bonus compensation. (Id. at 25-26). In an effort to buttress this view, he cites an earlier transaction in 1999 involving Deutsche Bank, in which CCF allegedly paid his team members a second bonus "when [they] had to redo a transaction" because management "didn't want to have a disincentive for people to redo transactions." (Dep. of Karl Eschelbach, taken on Nov. 20, ...

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