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Former Alex and Ani GC Files Wrongful Termination Suit

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on December 30, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Robert Rainville, a former general counsel for Alex and Ani, filed a lawsuit against the Rhode Island-based lifestyle brand, claiming wrongful termination in addition to breach of contract with regard to stock and bonuses.

The case is a good reminder for in-house counsel to formalize "perk promises" and to also make work boundaries clear.

Broken Stock and Bonus Promises

Rainville, a former candidate for state attorney general, filed the lawsuit earlier this month, claiming he was promised a transactional bonus of $1 million for helping the company obtain $70 million in financing from a private equity firm, JH Partners in San Francisco, last September, reports Cranston's WJAR-TV.

In the lawsuit, Rainville also claims he was promised -- but never received -- two percent of corporate stock to be distributed from 6 percent of corporate stock that had been set aside for a class of corporate executives.

A saucy exhibit attached to the suit is an email sent by CEO Giovanni Feroce to several of those executives, including Rainville. In the email, Feroce allegedly wrote, "The JH deal has closed! As a result, you all just became shareholders in AA. Congratulations, if you don't bust my balls you will all be wealthy someday soon ..."

Rainville says he regularly requested his bonus and corporate stock since Sept. 28, 2012, but to no avail. On Feb. 27, 2013, he was transferred from his position as general counsel to senior vice president of university relations. Right before Thanksgiving, he was allegedly terminated without notice and without cause -- without getting the loose bonus-and-stock ends tied up.

Rainville's lawsuit said Feroce "acted in a deceitful and fraudulent manner with regard to the payment of the transaction bonus and the issuance of corporate stock." He claims damages in excess of $75,000.

Blurred Lines

Rainville also says in the suit that he strongly voiced concerns to directors Giovanni Feroce and Carolyn Rafaelian about performing personal legal work for them unrelated to business activities and often refused to do it. He claims his opposition played a role in getting the axe, reports WJAR-TV.

Rainville's lawsuit also insinuates a certain debaucherous "The Wolf of Wall Street"-esque work atmosphere at Alex and Ani. He claims he faced negative employment consequences for raising concerns about a hostile work environment resulting from "the actions and conduct of corporate officers and directors" in violation of "the corporation's sexual harassment and substance abuse policies as well as state and federal anti-discrimination laws." Lifestyle indeed.

Regardless of how this case pans out, remember to not get too casual about perks. Get such promises down into a formal signed agreement.

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