Typically in corporate legal disputes, mergers, acquisitions or sales, the company’s employees are like the children of divorce: severely affected but little heard from. Well, amidst a contentious corporate battle going on in a Delaware courtroom, the employees of TransPerfect Translations are demanding that their voice be heard and taken into consideration
One April 26, the employees of the New York-based translation services company sent two letters to Delaware Chief Chancellor Andre G. Bouchard; Peter C. Schwartzkopf, the speaker of the Delaware House of Representatives; other members of the Delaware house and the media to present their perspective before a final ruling in the case. And to inform the public of their situation, a group called 610 Employees of TransPerfect Globally ran radio ads on local Delaware stations and placed a two-page advertisement in the Delaware News Journal that reprinted the contents of each letter
Hoping to save the company they work for, as well as their jobs, the employees wrote to the judge before he rules on the bizarre case currently before him. The case revolves around Elizabeth Elting, the co-chief executive officer of TransPerfect, who is suing the other co-CEO, Philip Shawe. Elting claims the two can’t work together anymore and that the company is unable to operate because of their dysfunction.
Elting wants out of the private company she co-created and has co-owned with Shawe for the past 24 years. In 2013, TransPerfect became the third-largest translation services company in the world, the second largest in the U.S. and the largest privately held company in the $35 billion translation services industry. The firm has more than 4,000 employees in 100 cities on four continents. These experts translate more than 170 languages for a high-profile client list that includes USPS, IKEA, Johnson & Johnson, and Hilton Worldwide.
Shawe offered to buy her out and pay for her share of the company, which shockingly has no debt. However, Elting doesn’t believe she’s getting a fair offer for the company that last year posted revenues of $500 million and a profit of $80 million.
In order to get a what she considers a fair market price, Elting wants the company sold to the highest bidder. Unable to find a judge receptive to her case in New York state, she filed the lawsuit in Delaware, where the non-jury trial is now being decided by Bouchard.
Both sides in the case have rested and in October Bouchard issued a preliminary ruling in which he appointed a custodian to create an exit strategy for Elting that will get her the most money. The strategy consists of selling the company against Shawe’s wishes.
This means that for the first time in U.S. history, a private, profitable, and highly-successful company that has not been accused of any wrongdoing or impropriety is being taken over by the government. The judge is placing a middleman in charge of the situation for the purpose of dissolving the company and having it force-sold against the wishes of two out of three shareholders. Elting owns half, while Shawe and his mother own the other 50%.
It also appears to be against the wishes of the employees who fear losing their well-paying jobs in a niche industry. So far, the employees have not received a response from Bouchard, who has issued a series of unprecedented decisions that are so unusual and blatantly one-sided that observers say they are not based on law and equity.
This case could have far-reaching repercussions for companies throughout the U.S.
Bouchard’s actions have found little support and have actually drawn fire across the country. The Chancellor’s toughest and most notable critic to date has been former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani, who also served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, called Bouchard’s ruling an “un-American” decision, offering the notion that more time should be granted before the draconian “dissolution” and “force sale” decision becomes final.
With more than 850 jobs in New York, 2,300 jobs in the U.S. and 4,000 worldwide at stake, the world is watching and waiting for Bouchard to make his next move.