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March 6, 2013

Former Yahoo Executive Accuses Company of ‘Cheating’ Him

Michael Katz Says He Is Owed $4.5M in Bonuses and Vested Stock Options

The founder of a company purchased by Yahoo is suing the Internet firm for “humiliating” him and attempting to “cheat him” out of $4.5 million in bonuses as well as vested stock options.

Michael Katz filed a breach of contract lawsuit in a New York state court against Yahoo this week for firing him Dec. 9, just two weeks before he was due to receive the first of four $1.35-million bonus cheques.

Katz founded Interclick in 2005 to aid digital marketers in targeting online ads to consumers. He joined Yahoo after his ad-targeting company was acquired by Yahoo for $270 million in December 2011. Katz says the $4.5 million in bonuses was part of the deal.

During his year as a Yahoo executive, Katz continued to run Interclick as well as oversee sales operations and data and performance optimization for mid-market sales units of Yahoo.

According to his lawsuit, his written performance evaluations during his year with Yahoo were “stellar,” in fact, he was even referred to as a “great visionary” by former interim Yahoo CEO Ross Levinsohn.

Yahoo human resources head Jackie Reses “summoned” him to a bar Dec. 9 and fired him, saying his last day on the job would be Dec. 14, the lawsuit says, adding that his sudden termination, which came after “a year of industry-leading performance,” was “transparently designed” by Yahoo to get out of paying him his promised compensation.

Katz said he was offered, as severance, four weeks of base salary, but only if he agreed to sign a waiver. Katz refused to sign the waiver and, as a result, received no severance.

Katz is asking to be awarded damages and other relief “as the court may deem just and proper.” He is also seeking attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses and pre- and post-judgment interest.