Update on Heller Drone

Just wanted to check in and let you know that your Cruise Director at times has to step away and take care of the mundane that calls all of us: unemployment, looking for work, networking, being depressed, sleeping, etc.  Does anyone know how many calories there are in an entire box of Entenmann’s Chocolate Covered Donuts?  That was Drone’s dinner last night.

Your cruise director has also been uncharacteristically mum about the Class Action Lawsuit and while tempted to answer many and all comments, has refrained for various reasons:

– I don’t want to jeopardize a court case that many of our fellow ex-Hellerites feel is the right thing to do at this time;

– I know the Class Action Lawsuit is the most commented upon topic here and emotions are, understandably riding high;

– I shouldn’t be the point of information as to the “why” or “how” of the suit – if you have questions please direct them towards counsel which is listed on the caption page of the complaint;

– I feel strongly that no one should be trying to contact the lead plaintiffs directly as has been mentioned here and on other blogs – while you might disagree with the timing or the venue of the suit, understand that everyone of us who went overboard has a different story, a different set of circumstances, a different set of needs;

– I think that if you are in strong disagreement with the suit you still have choices: you can continue to file your wage claims, etc. as an individual, you can hire your own counsel, etc.

I really need to limit my comments going forward as the suit progresses – I don’t think it would be fair to the lead plaintiffs and others if my comments were in any way to jeopardize what is a valid means of pursuing claims – whether each of us agree with those means or not.

Over and out.

Heller Drone
Cruise Director

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28 Responses to “Update on Heller Drone”


  1. 1 Community Organizer Fanclub 23 October 2008 at 9:44 am

    To the Cruisemeister – I don’t think you’ve gotten very many commendations of late, so let me say that what you’ve been doing over the past month has really helped me stay sane. I rely on your wisdom and wit in trying to adjust to this post-Heller Ehrman reality. Please keep at it!

  2. 2 Former Heller Paralegal 23 October 2008 at 10:18 am

    Another fan expressing thanks and appreciation – HD, you’re doing a great job and I’m glad this blog exists.

  3. 3 Anon 23 October 2008 at 10:46 am

    Yes, HD, all of us have different stories, circumstances and needs. The problem is that now 3 of us have jeopardized the rest of us in terms of meeting our needs. And regarding your suggestion to direct questions towards counsel–don’t bother. He will not answer them if he decides you are not the type of member of the class that he would like to speak with. I tried asking him questions and he refused to respond.

  4. 4 Derner 23 October 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Of all the stress I’m under right now, one of the most unexpected stresses is this feeling of disconnectedness. Even when we knew the ship was sinking, we could still gather on the promenade deck and make half-hearted jokes about the situation.

    Now I’m just feeling cut off. I feel like the ship went down and I washed up on some tiny island, alone, and the coconut supply is starting to run low.

    Even though I have disagreed with some of what I read on this blog, I want to thank you, HellerDrone for taking the time to put this blog together and keep it running. As a blogger myself, I know the amount of energy required, especially on emotionally empty days, to make something like this work.

    I may be on my own little island, but at least I can read the smoke signals wafting up from the other survivors.

  5. 5 Observer 23 October 2008 at 4:45 pm

    HD, can’t take your advice not to communicate with the lead plaintiffs in the class action suit. If they filed their own, individual law suit — fine. But when they filed as a class action they implicated everybody else’s positions (ex-associates as well as ex-staff), and got a law firm that most of us never, ever heard of before into the act. Not saying lead plaintiffs did anything wrong (possibly ill-timed), but actions like that have consequences — like hearing from their fellow class members.

    I continue to appreciate your providing a forum for communication and discussion.

  6. 6 clare_1 23 October 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Heller Drone–why do you “strongly suggest” that no one contact the lead plantiffs? Can you explain your reasoning? Why shouldn’t they know what others that may or may not choose to be in the class think?

  7. 7 SFMM 24 October 2008 at 12:50 am

    I too think this suit was a bad idea. Maybe named plaintiffs not recognized they should not have filed. Or maybe not. You can’t expect there to not be differences in opinon among such a large group. In any event, if the A/R gets paid out at the current rates, people will be paid before the caes takes off. (Plus, while the rules of ethics do not preclude us from contacting the three plaintiffs that represent our class, decency does.)

    Anyone have confirmation of the rumor that employees that were terminated, as opposed to those who resigned, were cut checks today?

    Hope you’re all doing well. I just saw on the sidebar that HD is not a place to bad-mouth coworkers. If your derision runs deep, then consider sending a letter to plaintiffs’ counsel (our counsel!), letting them know just how big of f*cksticks they are.

    Derner — a lot of people may not be posting, but you’re not alone.

  8. 8 SFMM 24 October 2008 at 1:16 am

    More articles like this need to be written:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7674730.stm

  9. 9 Observer 24 October 2008 at 1:31 am

    SFMM, thanks for the BBC article. Need more like that in S.F.
    Recorder/Daily Journal — are you listening? Hundreds of ex-Heller people out there now. Tell some of their stories.

    I don’t know yet about a check for being terminated last Friday. Should know what/if I’m getting by Monday at least, I would think.

    Derner, that dislocation and loneliness you feel — yes, most of us have it. You can’t lose as big a piece of your life as Heller was for most of us and not have it. Like any loss, it will take time to get over, time that cannot easily be shortened by anything we can do. (A new job would help of course. But for those of us not ‘taken along,’ that’s not easy either.)

  10. 10 Outsider 24 October 2008 at 4:52 pm

    The class action is a big mistake for any employee. The only reason Heller went under was that the banks froze the firm’s accounts when the number of shareholders dropped below the number required by the banks to keep the loans in effect. Heller tried to get the banks to let it pay the employees but the banks said no. So sue Heller all you want but they don’t have the money, the banks do. Once the banks get paid off, the employees should be next. All the class action does is makes sure that the class action lawyers get 50% of the employees wages. Doesn’t make sense to me.

  11. 11 Sorry-ex 24 October 2008 at 5:53 pm

    and bankruptcy does this…

    We received the following memo from a source inside Mervyns. Bottom line: no accrued vacation pay for employees as the company goes into liquidation.

    From: Mervyns.Communications

    To: ALL-MERVYNS-STORE DMGs

    Sent: Thu Oct 23 16:26:26 2008

    Subject: Revised 10-23-08 — Mervyns Associate Vacation Update

    Dear Mervyns Associate:

    Mervyns will soon begin holding GOB sales and winding down operations as part of a Section 363 sale process under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

    Yesterday, the Creditor’s Committee filed a motion to convert the Company’s bankruptcy filing from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7, and also filed an injunction to stop Mervyns from paying accrued vacation.

    Mervyns vigorously opposed this development, but this afternoon the Bankruptcy Court ordered Mervyns to stop paying employees for accrued vacation until next Thursday, October 30. At that time, the Court will conduct a full review of the issue.

    I am very disappointed with the actions taken by the Creditors’ Committee and the Court’s decision. We did all that we could, along with our advisors, to fight for our employees’ vacation pay, and will continue to do so.

    This is not a final decision. As noted above, the Court will conduct a full review of this issue next week. We will be sure to provide a full update on the outcome of next week’s Court decision. As tomorrow will be the final day for most HQ associates, we will ask you to provide your personal e-mail addresses when you pick up your final pay, so we may contact you on that matter. Or, you can visit http://www.kccllc.net/mervyns for court filings and claim information.

    Thank you for your patience.

    Sincerely,

    John D. Goodman

    President and Chief Executive Officer

  12. 12 Anon #2 24 October 2008 at 8:55 pm

    To Outsider: The attorneys on the class action will get 25%. I don’t know where you would get 50% that is crazy. The 25% is actually a low fee for the paintiffs. I agree with the suit as it stakes a legal claim on what receivables that Heller will have left after paying the banks off. If no place is held item by item will come before the employee’s no matter how good the intentions of
    Heller management are. Heller is now securing assets and getting ready to start selling computer/telecom hardware and artwork (which I can’t afford but would love to own) right now. Once they get monies in on some of that they will get more money to the bank. I have never dealt with anything like this so have no REAL knowledge but I do think all Heller staff was treated horribly during all of this, the merger deals, the layoffs etc…

    To Sorry-ex, that letter that was sent to Mervyns employees was wonderful. Explaining what was going on in writing to each individual is a classy way to go about it. Information is the key to life and thinking enough of your employees to let them be in the know is admirable. Thanks for sharing that.

  13. 13 Former Heller Lawyer 24 October 2008 at 9:15 pm

    Any news on when the 401(K) will be unfrozen? Perhaps you should track that issue as its own thread. It matters.

  14. 14 Observer 25 October 2008 at 12:41 am

    I also think the freezing of the 401(k) plan (for withdrawals, not investment choices) is a very unhappy situation. Yes, deserves its own thread.

    You all might want to consider calling Vanguard, at the plan participant service number — 1-800-523-1188 — and ask that they post a clear statement on their web site what is going on with that. We are all, after all, customers of theirs. If enough people do that, maybe they will react. So far — silence from them.

    (Sorry-ex, thanks for posting that Mervyn’s memo.)

  15. 15 Anon2 25 October 2008 at 2:19 am

    Anon#2, this is Anon2 here – regarding the artwork in the Heller offices, most of it was either sold, returned, whatever about 2 years ago. At least in the SF office anyway, they replaced the art with sofa art from Target.

    Regarding the 401k, the information I received recently (Oct. 21) from Heller is that they hope to have the accounts available “within a couple of weeks”. Everyone should call Vanguard to set up a personal account to roll over the monies once the accounts are unfrozen. You can either set one up at Vanguard, or another institution of your choice. Since I have an outstanding loan from Vanguard, I will receive a taxable disbursement to cover the loan balance (about $4,000) that I will have to claim as “wages” for 2008. My final paycheck (which I haven’t received yet) but have been told to expect Oct. 28 does not include any loan payment to Vanguard, however, it does include deductions for medical and dental. So what’s up with that? The benefits are always paid 15-30 ahead so if I am paying for medical deductions, that must mean there will be medical benefits for November? I hope so, because if not, then I need to be reimbursed for payment of benefits I will not receive.

  16. 16 Observer 25 October 2008 at 3:45 am

    Anon2, thanks for the update on the 401(k) situation. It seems plausible to me that Vanguard could make withdrawals available within a few weeks: what they have to do is figure out what it costs them in administrative expenses to terminate the employer plan, prorate that cost across all accounts, and then update account balances that are withdrawable. Anyhow, that’s I hope it goes like that.

  17. 17 Anon #2 25 October 2008 at 1:18 pm

    To Anon2;
    The artwork at Heller is not from Target. Two months ago art was actually installed on many of the floors in San Francisco and it was in fact art that was in storage for a number of years during the renovations. I remembered some of the art from when I started at Heller. I am an into art and I can tell you for certain that art is NOT from Target. The art in the NY office is the best that Heller had and is still there from what I have heard. They will be selling the art at a discount from what I understand. As far as the medical insurance goes I believe it only goes to 10/31 but if I were you I would call Cigna or Kaiser whichever it is you have and confirm your policy end date and get the Cobra costs. If they took the fees out for medical and you are not covered then if you join the class action make sure to inform the attorney of the fact that medical deductions were taken out of your pay and Heller should have to include that in the total you are owed I would imagine.

  18. 18 clare_1 25 October 2008 at 6:18 pm

    Re: Sorry-ex’s post about Mervyns–I’m confused; if it’s a law that they have to pay accrued vacation, why did the court order Mervyn’s to quit paying it? Is it because the vendors/other creditors are in line ahead of the employees?

  19. 19 Wondering.... 25 October 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Does anyone have any more info on final paychecks? Am assuming there’s no one to contact? I am coming up on almost 2 weeks and have seen no check. Any rhyme/reason as to how they are paying? Very many thanks!

  20. 20 Keep on 25 October 2008 at 10:14 pm

    Wondering — I think the wage checks were mailed late last week. If you don’t get yours by the middle of this week, you should probably contact the dissolution committee.

  21. 21 Wondering... 26 October 2008 at 12:35 am

    Thanks Keep On. Do you know how to contact the Dissolution Committee? Thanks much.

  22. 22 Keep on 26 October 2008 at 1:08 am

    You should email the members directly. I do not know their email addresses but I assume they follow the traditional Heller format, i.e., first.last@hellerehrman.com You can also try googling their names. Google’s cached pages may have their addresses.

  23. 23 Observer 26 October 2008 at 2:29 am

    clare-1: I go into the Mervyn’s story a bit here, because it has an implication for us. So bear with me.

    The Mervyn’s situation is different. At first, Mervyn’s was in Chapter 11 and attempting to reorganize and stay in business. In that scenario the bankruptcy court had allowed them to continue to pay amounts owed to employees, to keep the employees working and support remaining in business.

    Most recently, Mervyn’s has conceded that it has to go out of business, can’t reorganize, and will wind up through liquidation. That caused its creditors committee and secured lenders to object to the continued paying employees accrued vacation and other amounts: Those employees will no longer be needed; and, it becomes less certain that how much Mervyn’s will be able to pay its secured lenders and other creditors. The bankruptcy court is taking it cautiously at this stage, holding up employee payments pending better assessment of what percentage Mervyn’s may be able to pay on all claims.

    The bankruptcy court does not order a debtor to pay what the law says is owed (except to certain taxing authorities). Rather, it supervises the debtor while debtor liquidates its assets. Then, at a later point, funds realized from the assets are distributed to creditors according to the priorities set by the bankruptcy code. Those priorities put the secured lenders first, employees next but only up to about $10,000 per employee (and some other types of creditors have limited priorities in this intermediate level), then to general creditors (including employee claims over the $10K amount), and last to stockholders. In this priority scheme, whether the amount owed is due by law or due according to a contract or invoice makes little difference (oversimplified, but not by much).

    So, now, in the Heller situation, the fact that accrued vacation is owed to employees by law would make little difference in a Heller bankruptcy filing. Those amounts would still not be paid out immediately, and when paid later would only be paid in the priority framework outlined above.

    Hope that helps clarify some.

  24. 24 Former Heller Assoc 26 October 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Heller employees who have not received wages due to them (vacation days and WARN wages) should vote with their feet and close any and all accounts at Bank of America and Citibank. I had already closed my Bank of America accounts a couple years ago, and will now be moving from Citibank. I think a credit union, or banking co-op is the best place to be. And when you close your accounts, be sure to write to the higher ups at those banks and let them know why.

  25. 25 Keep on 27 October 2008 at 2:12 am

    Former Heller Assoc — I agree with that. In fact, I think all of us should close our accounts with those banks. I also think we should also send a bag of dookie to plaintiffs’ counsel.

    Wondering — if addition to those options, I think you should also contact the dissolution commmittee if you don’t have your check by the middle of this week.

  26. 26 clare_1 27 October 2008 at 11:15 am

    Thanks observer for explaining the Mervyn’s situation…

  27. 27 Another Former Associate 27 October 2008 at 4:30 pm

    I agree about moving bank accounts. But shouldn’t we also be informed of which clients are not paying their bills so we can choose whether or not to do business as their customers? After all, clients who are withholding payment or trying to low-ball the dissolving firm are just as much to blame (or close to it) for the firm’s lack of cash. Just sayin’.

  28. 28 Cspanner 27 October 2008 at 9:46 pm

    Another Former Associate — I agree with that. Anyone know which of the firm’s former clients are withholding payment or low-balling?


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