Quicken Loans Verdict A Big Win For Gilbert, Sore Spot For Former Employees

Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert was clearly satisfied with today’s verdict, in which the jury ruled in favour of Quicken’s use of overtime policies.

“It’s a victory for right over wrong,” Gilbert told Crain’s Detroit Business. “We have to stand up in this country and say ‘no’ when we’re approached by law firms like this that are doing nothing other than trying to extract money [through] settlements.”

Mayer Morganroth, a partner with Morganroth & Morganroth, the firm that represented Quicken, concurs with Gilbert’s statement. Morganroth told Benzinga that the jury made the right decision. “It was the right thing to do,” he said.

After the verdict, Quicken released an official statement on the matter. “Quicken Loans is pleased with the jury’s verdict, which validates what we have always maintained: Quicken Loans treats its team members fairly and has always remained in full compliance with all federal labour laws,” the statement read.

The lawsuit, which was filed in 2004, alleged that loan officers were not paid overtime fees that they were entitled to receive. The jury disagreed, deciding that the employees were not only exempt from overtime, but that they also did not work more than 40 hours.

Don Nichols, a partner with Nichols Kaster Attorneys at Law, the firm that represented the former employees, said that he was disappointed with the verdict but is proud of what his clients accomplished. “We’re really proud of our clients standing up to Quicken,” Nichols told Benzinga this afternoon, adding that he will be filing an appeal.

Nichols also said that he was pleased with the progress that has already been made for Quicken’s current loan officers; since the lawsuit was filed, the company changed its overtime policy.

However, Nichols has not been too pleased by the “very inflammatory language” used about him in some news reports. “I’ve heard of sore losers,” he said. “I’ve never heard of sore winners.”

For its part, Quicken concluded its statement by reiterating the company’s commitment to its employees. “Our commitment to treating – and compensating – our team members fairly is a major reason why Quicken Loans has ranked in the ‘top-30’ of FORTUNE Magazine’s list of the ‘100 Best Companies to Work for in America’ the past eight years, and in the ‘top-15’ of Computerworld Magazine’s ‘100 Best Places to Work in Technology’ for six consecutive years.

“We are grateful to the members of the jury who evaluated all of the evidence and returned the only verdict possible.”

Benzinga’s Take: Was it really the only verdict possible? When Crain’s spoke to Morganroth, he made a point of saying that, since the jury ruled that the loan officers were exempt from overtime pay, they did not have to mention any number of hours that the employees worked over 40. But the jury went the extra mile and wrote down their assessment: zero. “That they went to that extent shows how angry they were,” Morganroth said.

Gilbert was angry too. When the lawsuit was filed seven years ago, he was determined to win. He could have settled and saved an insurmountable amount of money. But what happens when a big-shot settles right off the bat? Our minds go to one place and one place only: guilty. Because if you settle out of court, you must be guilty, right? Whether that line of thinking is accurate or not does not really matter. All that matters is that Gilbert did not want us to think that Quicken Loans was just another evil corporation. He wanted us to know that this was one of those rare instances where the defendant wasn’t ruled by greed and gluttony.

And through it all, Gilbert stuck to his beliefs. It was a long journey, for certain, but after today’s verdict, he can rest easy knowing that he made the right decision.

— Louis Bedigian

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