Judge Orders Related Group to Pay Over $330K in Bonuses to Former Employee
Miami, Florida, December 22, 2010 – Jonathan Veniar, the former project manager with The Related Group’s Trump Towers development, recently won a summary judgment against the developer for $331,421.66 in bonuses that they had withheld from him.
Mr. Veniar, began his work as the project manager for the Related Group’s Trump Towers condominium development in Sunny Isles, Florida in 2005. Mr. Veniar and The Related Group signed an Employment Agreement that guaranteed performances bonuses that would pay Mr. Veniar when certain milestones were achieved during specific phases for each of the three Trump Towers.
According to the agreement, Mr. Veniar would receive a .75% bonus on the net profit after preferred returns for Trump Towers I, II and III. The bonus would be paid in 25% increments during phases, or milestones of the project: Ground Breaking, Topping off, Units Sold & Closed and Settlement with Condominium Association. The only condition was that he had to be employed at the time of the milestone to be paid the bonuses.
As the Trump Towers were built, Mr. Veniar successfully achieved six milestones that were stipulated in the Employment Agreement, but The Related Group only paid him four of the bonuses. The Related Group argued that Mr. Veniar’s bonuses were based on the actual net profits of the projects and that no additional bonus was due because the project eventually proved to be unprofitable when the South Florida real estate market turned for the worst. Mr. Veniar eventually filed a law suit to recoup the bonuses he was owed.
Melanie Damian, the attorney representing Mr. Veniar and a partner with the law of Damian & Valori LLP, argued that The Related Group’s reason for withholding the bonuses contradicted the testimony of their own Vice President of Condominium Operations, Alan Losado. Mr. Losado testified that he was responsible for calculating the performance bonuses for Mr. Veniar’s employment agreement and that the calculations were actually based on the Trump Tower’s Long Term Budget. As a result of his original calculations, Ms. Damian was able to prove that the most reasonable interpretation of the Employment Agreement required that the bonuses be paid based on the Long Term Budget and not a future calculation of “actual” profit.
On August 10, 2010, Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court Judge Valerie Manno Schurr granted Ms. Damian’s motion for summary judgment in favor of Mr. Veniar. “The case was pretty cut and dry,” said Ms. Damian. “My client fulfilled his end of the employment agreement and when the market took a turn, The Related Group tried to re-interpret the original agreement to avoid paying. Unfortunately, when big developments don’t sell as planned, employment contracts are often ignored.”