This is some serious sh*t to think about. I just received several emails overnight from ex-Brobeckians and ex-Hellerites who a) have great concern and empathy and support for Heller Ehrman, especially the non-shareholder crowd and b) point out some important areas where we should be pressing management for more information.
Again, this is not put out there to fan the flames, or create panic. It is NOT the equivalent of shouting fire in a crowded movie theater. It is more like shouting “should there be a fire, here is what may happen and how to be prepared.” As usual, use this, any and all information so that you can be an informed participant and make sure you are among the living when all is said and done.
Will the shareholders try to hammer together and approve a new shareholder agreement when they meet – either next Tuesday or before hand?
Don’t laugh and don’t say to yourself, “they wouldn’t do that.” People at Enron and WorldCom probably said the same thing.
If they do ever agree on anything as a group, it would probably be to rewrite the shareholder agreement so that there is as little personal liability (and responsibility) on the part of the remaining shareholders as possible. That is why shareholders are leaving asap and taking their capital contributions with them, if they can.
Are there enough lifeboats?
That depends. There are lifeboats and then there are lifeboats. Keep in mind the not-to-be-unexpected behaviour above. This is called lifeboat preparation.
What does this mean to you and me as support staff? As the shareholders get into their well-stocked lifeboats and quickly row away, do you really think they will look back at us? They don’t fear becoming a pillar of salt (as if the S.S. Heller were that wicked a place . . .) but rather they are ashamed at their own lack of personal responsibility and walking the walk about support staff.
Remember the pecking order that shareholders want to enforce in terms of rescue: shareholder, associate, paralegal, then support staff. Sorry, just bein’ honest here.
And what helps you get selected? Well if you can help that shareholder get into the beachhead of that new island of refuge (meaning their new firm), they will let you on to their lifeboat, giving the appearance of being caring and honourable. This is a true episode of Survivor: Heller Ehrman if there ever were one. Which reminds me, perhaps I should call up Stacy Stillman for advice . . .
No pushing, no shoving – an orderly evacuation please! Or will it be . . .
The shareholders will do almost anything for others to think that this is not Brobeck redux. Appearances are important. But on the other side of the ship, the one out of view of the media, you could likely see this (if you were allowed to):
- the shut down of Heller as soon as possible. Quick means least expensive cost to the shareholders;
- retention of a skeleton staff and attempts to minimize the cost of unemployment and COBRA payments;
- encouragement of people to leave voluntarily. Don’t be tricked into this unless you have an offer in hand. Stay to the end. If you don’t have a pink slip you may not qualify for unemployment or COBRA.
Servicing the clients – isn’t that just servicing the shareholders?
Yes and not in a good way. To keep employees performing at whatever level they need, you will hear lots of hooey about the importance of serving and protecting clients’ interests. And because of that, many of us, given our loyalty to the S.S. Heller and our work ethic, will bust our tuchases for them rather than spending the time looking for a new job or doing whatever is needed to take care of ourselves.
Think about it. You may well seriously drown later, especially if you stick around based on vague promises of being rewarded for your efforts. Don’t be fooled. You and I know that much of the time support staff has more respect for and loyalty to clients than shareholders. Shareholders only care about their clients or rather the clients who they can take with them and make money from.
Heed what happened at Brobeck: they drank the purple kool-aid about “client service,” but the reality was that many clients were abandoned because they weren’t big enough for any of the partners to care about taking.
How could benefits and issues important to support staff be affected?
I am going to beat this dead horse until it jumps up and screams “I can walk!” I am telling you to watch out for your benefits – this is what costs Heller the most, has helped retain its strong crew, but will be the first thing yanked away and right under your eyes if possible. Here’s why:
- Don’t assume the medical plans are the same and not all medical plans are safe. Depending upon how they are set up, and with the amount of time it takes to bill for services, etc. you may be in for a shock even weeks after the ship is evacuated. One of the provider choices at Brobeck was United Health Care, which worked sort of like a trust account. Brobeck was supposed to pay the premiums into the account. When someone had medical services, their doctor would send a bill to United Health Care, and the bill would be paid out of the “trust account.” What happened, however, was near the end Brobeck stopped paying into the account, and when the bill came in from the doctors, United said, sorry, there’s no money in the account, so the doctors then sent their bills directly to the patients-employees. If you have had recent medical treatment and are unsure how the billing/payments work, contact your doctor and get the bill submitted pronto.
- Drugs? “Why yes, please! And keep ‘em coming!” Seriously though, if you have a standing prescription like allergy medicines, cholesterol statins, etc. go get them this weekend whether you have FSA money or not. Take advantage of the low prescription prices as part of your benefits that you’ve worked hard for. If you can swing it, stock up like you are one of Sarah Palin’s kids getting ready for the weekend.
- Same goes for medical procedures. Don’t put off what you need done but make sure it is covered and gets reimbursed quickly. Note to self: schedule face lift in Acapulco this weekend but don’t bring Joyce Wildenstein this time.
- I know I’ve been reassured about the 401k but think about how important this is to you and you’d be justified in being worried. The 401K problem at Brobeck came about because – unknown to the support staff – Brobeck had stopped paying the fees to the bank that administered the fund nearly a year before the closure announcement. So, when the closure announcement came – and lots of employees were depending on their 401k funds to get through, the bank froze all the accounts because of the unpaid fees. It took months to unravel and unfreeze the accounts, and Brobeck staffers ended up having to pay the owed fees to get their money out.
We really need some definitive proof on this – even if it means calling up Vanguard or the other plan administrators.
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That’s enough to make you sea sick isn’t it? Well keep it together and wander over the the Lido Deck where Isaac is serving up a 333 Bush Street Martini Lunch special.
And come on guys, please comment on this. Good or bad. We’re beginning to hear voices in our heads and nasty visions of Shelley Winters as Belle Rosen saying, “In the water, I’m a skinny lady.” How about a contest where the one who comes up with the most inspired name for a cocktail, can be the first one to push Fram & Company’s lifeboat off the deck?
Over and out.
Heller Drone. ”That’s D R O N E not D R O W N”