How does one resolve this corporate contractual predicament?
March 30, 2014 9:32 AM   Subscribe

A good friend of mine, Sal, is stuck in a corporate predicament. He already signed a contract with a company in Saudi, but the company is altering his contract and job description because their client is no longer satisfied with it. Sal is now stuck between a rock and a hard place because he wants to back out, but can't. More details below.

This is the background story and it is a bit long, so bear with me.
Sal works for a project management company in Qatar, and is an extremely talented and sought-after Project Manager. His good friend, a very influential man (Ian) who works as a Regional Director for another big (Canadian) company in Saudi, offers him many positions, but Sal refuses all of them because he considers all the positions a step back from his current one. Eventually, Ian offers Sal a position as Project Manager for a good package and Sal agrees (because it is similar to his own position and the package is better) and proceeds to make plans to move to Saudi, selling his house, furniture, and car for much less than they are actually worth. Sal then decides to go to Canada (his country of citizenship) to complete his medical tests there.

And this is where things start to get awry: the Saudi company (which works for a big client in the country), informs Sal that they will alter the contract he already signed because the client is pressuring them. They told him that his new position will be as a Project Engineer reporting to a Technical Manager (instead of Project Manager reporting to Director), as well as altering his job description. Ian tries to convince Sal to take on the position and tells him it is the same thing and that he shouldn't object or play hard ball since the money is the same, but Sal insists that he is being set up for failure because it is a different job altogether, and that it is not about the money but the principle.

After Sal rejects all the alterations via e-mail correspondences, Ian angrily tells Sal to stop CCing the HR department of his company, and tells him that if his case goes legal, he won't be able to help him anymore. He also tells Sal that even if his contract is terminated, Sal won't get a lot of money as compensation (in one instance, he told him will get a month's pay, in another he told him he will get three months pay). To verify whether this was true or not, Sal researched this on the internet and found that his compensation far exceeds the amount that Ian has been alluding to. Sal tells Ian that his preliminary contract is still valid (since all subsequent alterations were merely e-mail correspondences) and that Ian should wire him his salary, so Ian complies.

Sal feels like he lost all trust in the company and in his friend Ian, so he talks to a lawyer who tells him that he has a 50/50 chance of getting a worthy compensation for all the losses he had to go through, but that they could ask for a worthy compensation. Meanwhile, Ian is on a two-week vacation, and the HR department of the company (and its Canadian branch) don't seem to know about Sal's case, even though Ian said they did. Basically Sal feels like he is trapped: On one hand, he feels discouraged and distrustful about the Saudi company and Ian, because he feels they are out to get him to Saudi and contractually trap him in job that is not his; and on the other hand he is suffering financially and taking any legal action (without having a backup job) that can potentially take up to one year sounds scary to him.

Recently, upon thinking about this matter a great deal, Sal came up with a solution: To talk to Ian in order to amicably end his contract, and to try to get a good compensation and then have Ian add some of his own money to it (since Ian likes to invest in start-ups) in order for them to both open a business partnership in Canada. He feels that this solution is the best because (a) any legal action might take up to a year in court, (b) he could turn a negative thing into a positive thing and keep all his business relationships intact, (c) he gets to invest in a good business in his country, Canada, and (d) he doesn't lose Ian as a friend, which he will if he decides to go legal. Question is, is this a good solution, given the circumstances?
posted by omar.a to Work & Money (14 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's request -- mathowie

Sal feels like he lost all trust in the company and in his friend Ian.

I would never start a business with someone I don't trust.
posted by Brent Parker at 9:41 AM on March 30, 2014 [7 favorites]

Ian doesn't have to have a say in the start-up, he has shown time and again that he is perfectly content with investing for profit, not for control. Basically Sal will be managing the start-up..
posted by omar.a at 9:45 AM on March 30, 2014

Why on earth would he trust Ian enough to go into business with him after this?
posted by dilettante at 9:53 AM on March 30, 2014

Sal should look for a new job unrelated to Ian and should pursue legal action for worthy compensation.
I would say his relationship with Ian as a friend is over whether he pursues legal action or not. He should try and maintain some sort of civil relationship for his own benefit but should not trust him and certainly not go into business with him!
posted by Snazzy67 at 9:56 AM on March 30, 2014

Sorry, to clarify: there still would need to be a substantial amount of trust in Ian. Even if he's just contributing financially, he could still screw things up badly by trying to change terms of agreements after the fact, or not coming through with funds or documentation or any number of things. And he has already shown your friend that he is not to be trusted.
posted by dilettante at 9:56 AM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hi, I have experience running and investing in a startup. Forming a startup under the circumstances you describe is insane.
posted by ryanrs at 11:18 AM on March 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

So if I'm following this, Ian acting as middleman for a third party offers Sal a job, then tries to change the terms. Sal refuses the change of terms and wants to stick to the original contract. Everybody lawyers up and finally Ian gives in to Sal's terms and wires Sal's salary to him. It is unclear how much the third party was involved or even aware of all of these machinations.

Now Sal wants to back out of the contract and have Ian invest in a completely unrelated startup that Sal would run and Ian would have no say in?

That seems... unlikely to work out well for Sal.
posted by ook at 11:43 AM on March 30, 2014

I was with you until you wrote about Sal's solution. It's such a bad idea that I was sure I misunderstood... until I saw your follow-up. This is not a good idea, at all, nor is it really a solution to the problem. It's just another problem.
posted by Houstonian at 11:49 AM on March 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Please contact the mods and have the names and places changed unless you've already done that.

If your friend pursues legal action this is AskMe has too many identifiers.
posted by jbenben at 11:50 AM on March 30, 2014

Thank you for all the replies.

@ook: Ian works for the company, which in turns works for a powerful client. Ian is basically trying to give the client what they want (in terms of demoting Sal and giving him more responsibilities for the pay) at Sal's expense.

I hear what you are all saying in terms of the start-up being a bad idea. I'd appreciate more solutions though, what would you do if you were in Sal's shoes?
posted by omar.a at 12:23 PM on March 30, 2014

If I was Sal, the only reason I would let Ian invest in a startup with me is if I could arrange it so that the failure of the startup would bankrupt Ian. Then I would ensure that the startup fails.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:10 PM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your friend is in a tough spot because he's getting screwed. His solution seems to be to start up another venture with the people screwing him. Apparently the people screwing him will be so happy to have the opportunity to invest their money in him that they will stop screwing him and generously compensate him for his pains and help him avoid a year in court.

This seems delusional. The people screwing him don't need more options so that they can get comfortable with the idea of not screwing him. *Sal* needs more options, so that he can cut ties with the people who are screwing him. So he needs to find another job or another business partner or whatever so that he can feel comfortable telling these assholes to fuck off.
posted by leopard at 1:11 PM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sal needs to find a new job and fast. Ian is not his friend. Ian has (intentionally perhaps given all the past job offers made) screwed Sal over. I think given the stakes he should also hire a lawyer and persue a claim against the company and Sal.
posted by saradarlin at 1:12 PM on March 30, 2014

If Sal is in Canada, he probably shouldn't leave for Saudi unless this is resolved.

If he's in Ontario, I know a good lawyer.
posted by scruss at 1:41 PM on March 30, 2014

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