Lucent Settles With Former Sales Chief
MURRAY HILL, N.J. (AP) _ Lucent Technologies Inc. said Thursday it reached a settlement with its former head of North American sales, Nina Aversano, over her breach-of-contract claim.
In a joint press release, the Murray Hill-based telecommunications-gear maker and Aversano announced that they reached a settlement of her breach-of-contract claim and that her whistleblower lawsuit _ in which she claimed she was forced out of the company in October 2000 for criticizing its sales goals as too aggressive _ has been dismissed. The terms weren’t disclosed, and both sides said there will be no further comment.
The dispute centered on the circumstances over Aversano’s departure from Lucent just as the telecom-gear market was starting to rapidly deteriorate. Then-Chief Executive Richard McGinn had turned the former equipment-making arm of AT&T Corp. into a Wall Street star by increasing its sales at a double-digit percentage pace. But in 2000 he had twice disappointed investors.
During an August 2000 conference call, Aversano warned McGinn that big customers were pulling back, say people familiar with the call. Sensing an economic slowdown, she said it appeared her team would miss Lucent’s just-reduced quarterly revenue expectation. The CEO ``went ballistic,″ wrote a member of her team, Marc Schweig, in an e-mail later.
What followed was a frenzy of deal-making as Lucent salespeople went all-out to meet the revenue targets. They almost did, falling just $100 million short of a nearly $6 billion revenue goal when the fiscal fourth quarter ended Sept. 30. But in the process, Lucent borrowed from the future. It promised customers a host of discounts, one-time credits and other incentives certain to eat into future sales.
Aversano later filed suit under New Jersey’s whistleblower statute, contending that some of Lucent’s sales goals were far too optimistic and that Lucent pushed her out for saying so.
Lucent responded that Aversano was responsible for many of the accounting and forecasting discrepancies cited in her complaint. McGinn, who wasn’t a defendant in the suit, acknowledged that he put pressure on sales people but said he ``never asked anyone to do anything untoward,″ and certainly wasn’t involved in any securities fraud.
Lucent’s New York Stock Exchange-listed shares closed Thursday afternoon at $1.42, up 16 cents, or 13 percent.