A former Abiomed (NSDQ:ABMD) Asia VP lost a lawsuit that sought $2.1 million in damages, alleging unfair termination and the denial of an options deal tied to Japanese approval of its Impella heart pump.
The Danvers, Mass.-based heart pump maker hired the plaintiff, Keisuke Suzuki, in 2010 to help it pursue Japanese regulatory approval for the Impella device. Their agreement included a provision that would give Suzuki 45,000 ABMD shares pegged to Japanese regulatory milestones.
Suzuki claimed that Abiomed was resistant to his suggestions and recommendations for winning approval from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour & Welfare and Japan’s Pharmaceutical & Medical Device Agency, unnecessarily prolonging the process. Abiomed was on target to achieve approval of the devices in 2015, having met with Japan’s PMDA and established guidelines for what was necessary for the clearance, Suzuki alleged, according to court documents.
After the PMDA meetings, he claimed, the company began to give him false negative job performance reviews, sought to demote him and to “change the terms of his compensation so as to take away his stock rights and future commission rights,” according to the documents.
The lawsuit alleged that Abiomed fired him without the 28-day notice required by his contract and denied him the 20,000 ABMD shares he was allegedly due based on Japanese approval of the Impella line. Suzuki sought damages for the alleged retaliation, lost wages and the price of the shares.
Abiomed denied all of Suzuki’s claims and alleged instead that it took another 15 months after Suzuki’s firing to win Japanese approval for Impella. The company asked for summary judgment from Judge Denise Casper of the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts, who last week granted the motion.
“Given that Suzuki was not due compensation for a milestone that was not achieved at the time of his termination and was not achieved until 15 months later after considerable additional effort by Abiomed, such that it cannot be reasonably concluded that he was ‘on the brink’ of reaching this milestone, Abiomed’s termination of Suzuki does not amount to bad faith or violation of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing,” Casper ruled Jan.4, according to the documents.
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