What a Yahoo: Former CEO Bartz Could Lose $10 Million For Calling Board A Bunch of “Doofuses”

Most people fired have a choice word or two about their former employers. It was therefore not surprising that former Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz wanted to let off some steam after she was canned. The legal question is whether it was worth $10 million to Bartz because that is how much it could cost under a standard clause in her contract. She may now have to put her money where he mouth is.

In an interview with Fortune Magazine, Bartz has referred to the Board that fired her. She said that “These people f*ck*d me over” and called them “doofuses.”

Bartz was only the CEO for a couple of years but her contract had a non-disparagement clause and there remains $10 million outstanding — $10 million controlled by those “doofuses.”

In response to the comments, Bartz was then told to resign from the board.

Such clauses are enforced, though usually for more substantive breaches in commercial settings. Last year, an Ohio court in the opinion below in Ohio Education Assn. v. Lopez looked at the type of case that is viewed as a violation but de minimus. When Lopez was let go by the Ohio Education Association, his severance agreement contained a non-disparagement clause stating “Employee further agrees not to at any time disparage, defame, or otherwise derogate Employer’s Officers, Executive, Committee Members, employees or agents.” Lopez however could not resist leaving a voicemail for the association’s counsel:

Davey, you never call me anymore. This is el jeffe. Call me sometime. I’m all settled with the OEA so you don’t have to worry about this gag order and all this s___ that slimebag Reardon said to you. So call me…. Bye.

Not real smart to bad mouth the association to its lawyer after agreeing to a non-disparagement clause. Yet, the court found it de minimus:

Here, the purpose of the separation agreement was to end the employment relationship and resolve all disputes. The nondisparagement provision was a negotiated term of the agreement. The provision OEA alleged Lopez breached uses the terms “disparage, defame, or otherwise derogate.” All of these terms connote harming a person’s reputation or causing one to seem inferior. The term “slimebag” is a common slang expression meaning “[a] despicable person, usually a male.” McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions (4th ed.2006), 323…. This kind of trifling figure of speech is of so little consequence it cannot be said to be material and should be disregarded…. [T]he slang expression is such a part of modern casual speech as to be almost meaningless. OEA could not demonstrate that the message caused any damage to OEA or Reardon.

Bartz could argue that the name of the company itself is disparaging. Yahoo is defined as “a stupid person.” Like Yahoo, doofus is defined as “a foolish or inept person.” While she would have been better off calling them “a bunch of yahoos,” the word doofus is believed to have originated from the term “goofus” which is in turn based on the word “goof,” which is believed to be a variation of “goff” in an English dialect for simpleton.

Of course, only a simpleton would risk $10 million to called someone a doofus.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/09/09/word-doofuses-may-cost-ex-yahoo-ceo-bartz-10-million/#ixzz1XTn8AuSgBartz

25 thoughts on “What a Yahoo: Former CEO Bartz Could Lose $10 Million For Calling Board A Bunch of “Doofuses””

  1. Thanks raf, anon nurse and Woosty. anon, nurse, He was a male westie named Mickey Clancy. The kids named him. The middle name came from another westie that lived behind us. Woosty, I have my daughter’s little dog, Sophie. We both miss Mickey.

  2. Swarthmore mom1, September 12, 2011 at 10:54 am
    I’m so sorry. I have a good friend who says that pets are an investment in pain. I personally believe them to be an investment that returns a thousandfold over and above any pain that they may bring. 15 years! You were a very good Doggie mommy….

  3. The fact that she uses words like that tells me she was unfit for the position she held. A limited vocabulary is not something one would expect in a CEO.

    The responsible party is the search firm who recommended her as a suitable candidate for CEO.

    My guess is she’ll ultimately obtain a settlement in the six million to seven million dollar range, combined with a huge black eye for the search firm, and a chastened Yahoo board of directors.

  4. Swarthmore mom,

    I, too, am sorry to hear about your dog. (What was her or his name?)

    You’re in my thoughts…

  5. Swarthmore,
    I am sorry to hear about the loss of your trusted companion. Dogs hold a special spot in our hearts. We have gone through that and only time will help.

  6. SwM,

    I too am sorry for your loss. Just because they are furry doesn’t mean they aren’t family.

  7. I am sorry about the family member….Pets can be people too…Even more so than actual family….They can be more loyal….

    With that said, I have no problem with self Identified Nazis or Femanazis.’ Look at Roco, I have no problem with him…He has his opinions and while I disagree with him…They are his views….and what I think about him is sometimes expressed…..

    Where I do have problems is when one expresses a view that differs with yours…They become Republican, Misogynist and are to be viewed with Askance….There is a difference don’t you agree?

    So, I do not think that I misunderstood your words at all….I think they are self explanatory…They were very, very clear….

  8. I will always be a feminist whether it is on a blog or in my personal life My beloved dog of fifteen years died unexpectedly yesterday. I am fortunate to have family and male and female friends to support me during this time of grief.

  9. You men better be careful….Soon, because this is a female…You will be labeled a Republican, a Misogynist and to be viewed askance….all because you said something unfavorable…..about a woman…….You really could be the rallying boys for the Hitler Youth Program as well…Then that would explain it all….

  10. This clause was designed to protect confidence in the brand and brand leadership, and Bartz clearly violated it with her public comments. Rescinding this payment is merited.

  11. It’s hard to believe anyone is worth that. They could pay her 40 million and lower their per-click minimum bids.

  12. Alas, I’m sorry the company Yahoo has watered down what used to be a very strong insult. “Yahoo,” as coined by Jonathan Swift, wasn’t merely “a stupid person,” but a separate species of subhuman beings, whose ape-like behavior included throwing feces.

    What a bunch of yahoos.

  13. Much as I think some people get paid way too much I don’t see why using doofus should be grounds to not give some $10m they’re due. Also to say the screwed her over is subjective, she feels screwed over and that they did it. Perhaps she should have stuck to the legally tested term slimebag.

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