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Motorola's ex-CFO files whistleblower suit

'Treachery' tit-for-tat

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Who'd a thunk it? Behind Motorola's gloomy Q4 earnings report and corresponding sacking of its financial chief, Paul Liska, there was a tale of alleged treachery and intrigue.

Liska claimed in a court filing unsealed Thursday that his firing was a retaliation for warning the company's board of directors that Motorola's ailing mobile division was "intentionally or recklessly, materially misstating its 2009 forecasts and strategic plan."

But as Moto tells the story, Liska was a "treacherous officer" who caught wind management was displeased with his performance and concocted a "extortion-like scheme designed to portray himself as a whistle blower and demand millions in return for his silence."

The ex-executive filed suit against Motorola late February in Cook Country Circuit Court, Illinois. His claims, in which parts are redacted, says Motorola's Mobile Devices executives were giving forecasts "based on inaccurate or unsupportable financial assumptions."

Liska apparently confronted Motorola's board of directors over the division's flawed forecasts and claimed he was "worried" the unit didn't have a full 2009 business plan by the company's December 15 board meeting.

The company announced Liska's dismissal on February 3, 2009 as part of a quarterly earnings call. Later in an SEC filing, Motorola claimed the sacking was due to "serious misconduct and incompetence."

In Motorola's response - also unsealed today as reported by the Chicago Tribune - the company said its relationship with Liska went downhill as early as summer 2008, when Liska allegedly became jealous of the mobile unit's co-Chief Executive Sanjay Jha's generous compensation package. His claimed "vendetta" against Jha took the form of becoming "erratic, unprepared, abrasive, divisive — and simply absent and 'unavailable.'"

Motorola further alleges Liska tried to "fleece" Motorola by demanding a settlement of more than $37m after he threatened the retaliatory discharge suit.

Liska claims he never demanded a settlement or threatened the company with a lawsuit.

Truly bizarre. As if Motorola's mobile unit needed more things to worry about. ®

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