x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Former Taqa chief's case thrown out by US judge

The former chief executive of Abu Dhabi National Energy Company, or Taqa, has his appeal against unfair dismissal by the company thrown out by a US court.

A US judge has thrown out an unfair dismissal case brought by Peter Barker-Homek, the former chief executive of Taqa, against his former employer.

A judge in Michigan dismissed Mr Barker-Homek's case against Taqa, also known as the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company, saying it did not have jurisdiction over the suit.

"Taqa … today announces the dismissal of the United States lawsuit brought by former employee Peter Barker-Homek against Taqa, Taqa New World Inc and Taqa general manager Carl Sheldon," the company said.

Mr Barker-Homek claimed he was fired by Taqa in 2009 after he complained about alleged "fraudulent and unethical practices" at the company.

He subsequently sued Taqa in Michigan, where he said Taqa New World, an indirect subsidiary of Taqa incorporated in Delaware, had conducted the majority of its business.

But the court found few links to justify hearing the case in Michigan. Taqa New World could not stand in as a substitute for Taqa because it did not have an employment agreement with Mr Barker-Homek, according to a court filing that also said only Taqa itself could provide the necessary redress.

"At the evidentiary hearing, it became clear to the court that [Mr Barker-Homek] has overstated his and Taqa's contacts with Michigan," the judge ruled.

"[Mr Barker-Homek] attempts to link his claims to Michigan by arguing that he was terminated because he complained of fraud that allegedly occurred in Michigan," the judge added. "The court is not persuaded that such slight connection to Michigan is sufficient, given the clear nexus of plaintiff's claims with Abu Dhabi."

The court did not rule on specific allegations Mr Barker-Homek made in his complaint, including a claim that his dismissal as the chief executive came after his refusal to sign off financial statements he considered "bogus".

Mr Barker-Homek also alleged he was forced to sign a severance package and told to "keep quiet". To ensure his compliance, he claimed, Taqa officials allegedly warned they would call in the loan on his house, forcing him into default and resulting him being thrown into a debtor's prison, according to Mr Barker-Homek's complaint.

The ruling does not end Mr Barker-Homek's efforts to seek redress, his attorney said.

"We disagree with the court's decision and we're going to appeal," A. Sasha Frid, an attorney at Miller Barondess, told Bloomberg News.

ghunter@thenational.ae