California Judge Reduces Ex-Navient Executive’s Jury Award in Wrongful Termination Suit

On Friday, a California federal judge reduced a jury award to Louis Beryl, a former executive of financial technology company Navient Corp, from $1.4 million to $350,000, finding Beryl’s employment agreement with Navient prohibited an award above $350,000.

In 2017, Navient Corp. acquired Beryl’s company, Earnest Inc., for $155 million. After Beryl was terminated from Navient in January 2018, Beryl sued the company for wrongful termination, arguing that Navient lacked “cause” – as defined in his employment agreement – to terminate Beryl. After a four-day jury trial, a California federal jury agreed that Navient lacked cause to terminate Beryl and awarded him $1.4 million in performance awards and $1 million in restricted stock. Bertram LLP previously reported on that award here.

In her Friday order, U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler disagreed with the jury’s determination, finding that Beryl’s employment agreement with Navient restricted his award to eligible performance cash units that were outstanding when the company terminated Beryl in January 2018. Judge Beeler found that the “plain language” of Beryl’s contract limited his recovery to 350,000 PRUs, which were eligible for a cash payment of $1 per unit when the units vested.

Judge Beeler did not reverse the jury’s award of $1 million in restricted stock, noting that “the jury credited Mr. Beryl’s account that he accepted” an offer of the $1 million stock sum three weeks before he was fired.