(Updates with comment from lawyer in fifth paragraph.)
Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Abu Dhabi National Energy Co. won dismissal of a lawsuit brought by former Chief Executive Officer Peter Barker-Homek who claimed he was forced out of the state- owned energy firm known as Taqa after complaining about fraud.
Barker-Homek, who filed the suit last year in federal court in Detroit, said he was told to “keep quiet,” after he “tried to put a stop to the kickbacks, bribery, accounting fraud and corruption,” according to his complaint. He also sued Taqa General Manager Carl Sheldon, claiming Sheldon forced him to sign a severance agreement in 2009.
Barker-Homek can’t sue Taqa or Sheldon in Michigan despite his claims that fraud occurred in the state, U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O’Meara said today in a 16-page decision dismissing the suit. O’Meara said he wasn’t “persuaded” of a Michigan connection.
“Plaintiff’s breach of contract, retaliation, and various tort claims do not have a ‘substantial connection’ with Taqa’s contacts with Michigan,” O’Meara wrote. As to the claims against Sheldon, “Michigan’s interest in this case is slim to non-existent, given that neither plaintiff nor Sheldon are Michigan citizens and the acts or injuries alleged did not occur here.”
“We disagree with the court’s decision and we’re going to appeal,” A. Sasha Frid, Barker-Homek’s attorney, said in a phone interview.
Barker-Homek contended that fraud occurred at Taqa New World Inc., a subsidiary based in Michigan, and claimed his firing violated Michigan law against dismissing employees who highlight alleged wrongdoing within a company.
Barker-Homek “overstated his and Taqa’s contacts with Michigan,” and hadn’t proved Taqa’s control over the state affiliate, O’Meara said.
Taqa New World couldn’t be sued over the contract because it wasn’t a party in to his employment agreement with the Abu Dhabi parent, O’Meara said. The court couldn’t substitute the affiliate for Taqa so Barker-Homek “may pursue his claims in the United States,” O’Meara wrote. “Plaintiff’s recourse is to pursue his claims against Taqa in Abu Dhabi, as set forth in his employment agreement.”
The case is Barker-Homek v. Abu Dhabi National Energy Company PJSC, 2:10-cv-13448, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit).
--Editors: Mary Romano, Fred Strasser
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