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William F. Raedle v. Credit Agricole Indosuez

February 28, 2012

WILLIAM F. RAEDLE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT-CROSS-APPELLEE,
v.
CREDIT AGRICOLE INDOSUEZ, LEE SHAIMAN, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES-CROSS-APPELLANTS, DANIEL H. SMITH, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barrington D. Parker, Circuit Judge:

10-2565-cv (L)

Raedle v. Credit Agricole Indosuez

Argued: November 10, 2011

Before: POOLER, B.D. PARKER, LOHIER, Circuit Judges.

Cross-appeal from an order of the United States District Court for the Southern District 32 of New York (Griesa, J.), granting William F. Raedle a new trial, under Rule 59(a)(1)(A) of the 33 Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, following a defense verdict on a claim against his former 34 employer for tortious interference with a job offer from another firm. The second trial resulted 35 in a verdict in Raedle's favor. We hold that the district court abused its discretion in granting the 36 new trial.

REVERSED and REMANDED.

This cross-appeal arises out of the trial and retrial of plaintiff William F. Raedle's claim 14 against his former employer, Credit Agricole Indosuez ("CAI"), and Lee Shaiman, his supervisor 15 at that firm, for tortious interference with a job offer from another firm. Following the first trial, 16 the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Griesa, J.) vacated a 17 defense verdict and granted Raedle a new trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 59(a)(1)(A). Upon 18 retrial, a second jury returned a verdict in Raedle's favor and awarded substantial monetary 19 damages. We hold that the district court abused its discretion in granting the new trial. 20 Accordingly, we reverse the order of the district court granting the new trial; vacate the judgment 21 entered on the basis of the second verdict; and remand the case to the district court with 22 instructions to reinstate the first verdict and to enter judgment in defendants' favor in accordance 23 with that verdict.

BACKGROUND

In 2004, Raedle, a financial analyst, sued his former employer CAI, a corporate and 27 investment bank, and two former supervisors at CAI, Lee Shaiman and Daniel Smith. CAI fired 28 Raedle in 2001 for allegedly poor performance. Shortly afterward he secured a job offer from 1 the Dreyfus Corporation ("Dreyfus"). But following conversations between CAI and Dreyfus - 2 the contents of and parties to which are hotly disputed - Dreyfus rescinded the offer. Raedle 3 sued for tortious interference with prospective contractual advantage, claiming that CAI, 4 Shaiman, and Smith made false and disparaging comments about him to Dreyfus, resulting in the 5 rescission of the offer. Following discovery, the district court granted summary judgment to 6 Smith, but denied it as to CAI and Shaiman. The case proceeded to trial.

The First Trial

Since the main issue on appeal is whether the verdict in the first trial constituted a 9 miscarriage of justice, we review in some detail the evidence presented. That evidence showed 10 that in August 1998, Smith - then managing director of the U.S. merchant and investment 11 banking unit of CAI - hired Raedle to work as a credit analyst in the firm's Asset Management 12 area. Smith testified that Raedle's performance in 1999 was "satisfactory to above average."

13 J.A. at 192. In January 2000, Smith hired Shaiman to serve as co-portfolio manager and head of 14 research, at which point Shaiman became Raedle's supervisor. According to Smith, Raedle's 15 performance deteriorated throughout 2000 until his relationship with Shaiman and Smith became 16 "broken." J.A. at 198-199. They decided to fire him. As Smith explained at trial, 17 I think philosophically we were trying to organize a business around a 18 kind of teamwork structure where people supported one another, 19 information was shared and we made decisions collectively. . . . I think 20 [Raedle] felt like . . . he was more oriented into a star system where he 21 didn't want to have responsibilities to the rest of the team to communicate 22 his thoughts and his analysis such that we could make these collective 23 decisions. I think as a result of that, he didn't agree with the way we were 24 running the business. I felt like he didn't have any confidence or respect 25 for management, myself, Lee Shaiman and his colleagues.

J.A. at 199. Shaiman testified that Raedle was "difficult, argumentative, didn't listen to 2 direction, didn't take direction well, didn't produce the work product that we had asked him to, 3 didn't train people we gave him opportunities to do things [sic] and fretted those opportunities 4 away." J.A. at 162. A memorandum concerning Raedle's termination described his "principal 5 short-comings" as "a) poor communication of his opinions regarding individual credits within 6 his portfolio, b) inadequate documentation of his credit analysis, c) no clear leadership skills, d) 7 inability to help develop junior analysts within the group." J.A. at 1066-1069. 8 After being fired in January 2001, Raedle promptly sought other employment and in 9 March 2001 secured a job offer from Gerald Thunelius of Dreyfus to work as a high yield bond 10 analyst. However, only weeks later, after contacting CAI and investigating Raedle's 11 performance, Dreyfus rescinded the offer. According to notes Raedle said he took during a 12 conversation with Thunelius in 2001, "[s]omething was said by Lee Shaiman that ended the 13 offer." J.A. at 989. Raedle's notes from another conversation he said he had with Dreyfus's 14 human resources manager, Mary Beth Leibig, also stated that Shaiman and Smith "[b]oth 15 provided bad references. Both trashed me." J.A. at 992. 16 To prove that someone at CAI had tortiously interfered with his offer from Dreyfus, 17 Raedle relied primarily on Thunelius's testimony about a telephone call allegedly placed by 18 Leibig to someone at CAI as part of Dreyfus's due diligence regarding Raedle's prior 19 employment. Thunelius testified that, following this call, he attended a meeting with Leibig, 20 another human resources employee, and the chief investment officer of Dreyfus (the "Dreyfus 21 meeting"), where he learned that "Will Raedle's boss" had offered Leibig "very non-discreet 22 information about [Raedle]." J.A. at 243. In particular, he testified that "[Leibig] said that she 1 was fearful that there were some mental issues, that there were some ten[de]ncies of - I think the 2 word used was psychopathic and there were other more terms like that thrown around." J.A. at 3 242-243. He said "[t]here was a lot of inference . . . to [Raedle] being, eventually being a 4 problematic employee for mental-type issues" and that "[Leibig] said he had problems with some 5 of his co-workers, male co-workers. . . . What I heard from her, there were a lot of very personal 6 issues, that he might not be able to - he would not be a good employee for Dreyfus." J.A. at 7 243. When asked whether Leibig had actually used the word "psychopathic," Thunelius 8 clarified that he did not recall whether she or someone else in the meeting had used the word. 9 J.A. at 256.

10 Because he was "shocked" by what Leibig was saying, Thunelius testified, he later 11 contacted CAI himself and spoke to "someone who identified himself as [Raedle]'s boss," whose 12 name he could not recall, who "repeated" that Raedle "was a problem, that he had mental 13 issues." J.A. at 243-244. 14 Sriram Balakrishnan, a former CAI employee, testified that Shaiman told him that he 15 (Shaiman) had received a call concerning Raedle and "indicated that after what he [Shaiman] 16 told him, he did not think that [Raedle] would get the job." J.A. at 36. Although Balakrishnan 17 did not know what Shaiman had said or to whom, he ...


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