Nasir and Matt end the week by discussing the accountant who got fired from his job after a dispute he had with Comcast. They then answer the question, "We just brought on our first set of employees. How should we structure their pay to make them happy now and not have it backfire long-term?"
Full Podcast Transcript
NASIR: Welcome to our business legal podcast where we cover business in the news and answer some of your business legal questions that you, the listener, can send in to firstname.lastname@example.org. We welcome your questions and we will give you the answers and this is Nasir Pasha.
MATT: And this is Matt Staub.
NASIR: Now that we’ve got that intro out of the way, let’s start our episode.
MATT: The hardest part of every episode is the intro, I think.
NASIR: For who? For you or for me?
MATT: For me, it’s easy because all I do is say my name but that’s…
NASIR: Ah. Then we’ll try it again with you one of these times. I know last time we tried it, you messed up horribly.
MATT: I don’t know if I’d say “horribly.”
NASIR: I know you wouldn’t say that.
MATT: Let’s see. So, we have an interesting story for today, for this Friday episode. There’s actually a lot of detail so I don’t think we’ll be able to go through all the details, all the facts, but it’s pretty interesting kind of what happened. I’ll try to give as brief a summary as possible.
So, this guy signed up with Comcast, as most relationships like this begin, some sort of promotional deal. So, he went with that. This was back in the beginning of 2013. Of course, we wouldn’t be talking about this story unless there was a lot of issues involved.
So, like I said, this guy signs up with Comcast. There’s all these issues. They think they’ve misspelled his name so that was one thing so he was not getting bills. You know, all these different surcharges that are mystery charges that are coming up, blah blah blah, you know. Eventually, he tried to back out and, you know, a dispute back and forth between the two of them, it goes on and on. One way or the other, they found out, I guess, it looks like they might have searched online to find this out but they found out where this guy worked for and he worked for an accounting firm. And so, like I said, there’s a dispute back and forth between Comcast and this customer.
At some point, Comcast actually reaches out at calls the partner of his accounting firm that he works for and kind of just informs the firm on the situation. One thing leads to another and the accounting firm actually ends up firing this guy soon thereafter Comcast calls them to inform them that he’s got some issue. I think they tried to bring ethics into it. So, that’s basically where we’re at. I mean, there’s been a couple of updates. I think Comcast has since kind of apologized – no, no, I take that back – they apologized for their bad billing services and all that, but they didn’t apologize for eventually him actually getting fired.
So, from the accounting firm’s perspective, this is a bad decision, right?
NASIR: From the accounting firm’s perspective?
MATT: Yeah, from the accounting firm’s perspective.
NASIR: Well, their reasoning of termination was because somehow they were under the impression – which, of course, the employee denies – that the employee used his firm’s name as basically saying – look, I’m challenging this in behalf of them in the sense that they have their employer’s backing them. Somehow, he used his employer’s name in a way that was improper from the employer’s perspective and it’s unclear exactly how he could have done that and why. He probably mentioned, “Hey, I’m an accountant at this firm and I went through this accounting process to go through all these charges that you mishandled,” and that’s probably what really happened. But it’s unclear the exact reason why the employer did this. I don’t know if you mentioned it – I don’t think you did – that Comcast is actually a client of this accounting firm.
MATT: Oh, no, I didn’t mention that.
NASIR: That’s pretty huge and I think that may have something to do with it. You know, Comcast, it’s almost become a joke now how bad of customer service they have. It’s become an internet joke, at least, in the sense that, almost every week or so, you hear someone that records a call. There’s this big famous call that happened a couple of months ago where someone tried to cancel their account and you had one of these retention reps that just went too far and, each and every time Comcast has – in their like fashion and in the corporation fashion – put out their PR statement kind of apologizing and going back and forth, but like you said, in this case, they didn’t seem too regretful regarding the termination, and I don’t think they should apologize because then they’re almost admitting that they’re the cause of the termination but, in reality, it’s up to the employer whether to terminate the employee.
MATT: Yeah, and like a lot of these stories too, we’re getting two different sides, opinions that are obviously different in how they both kind of view. Actually, in this case, it’s even three sides, I suppose, on how they view the situation and what actually happened. So, it’s impossible for us to tell how truthful anything really is or what’s essentially 100 percent accurate but I just thought this was pretty interesting just because you don’t hear about something like this every day and the fact that I think it was Pricewaterhouse, right? It was where this guy worked for?
NASIR: Yes, it was PricewaterhouseCoopers. In fact, I’m just reading their perspective that the company “terminated his employment after an internal investigation concluded that the employee violated their ethical standards and practices applicable to all of our people. The firm has explicit policies regarding employee conduct. We train our people in those policies and we enforce them.” This employee mentions that he didn’t even mention PricewaterhouseCoopers during the call and that he didn’t even try to leverage that business connection between the two companies and Comcast. So, I mean, I don’t know, it seems strange. Even if he did mention, like, “Look, I’m an accountant. In fact, I’m an accountant at this big accounting firm at Pricewaterhouse,” that seems more likely. But, frankly, if they found the employer, it’s an at will employment, in their mind, they thought that he violated the ethical standards, so I don’t see anything wrong with that. There’s nothing illegal about that.
MATT: Yeah, and I guess there was an email at some point from Comcast to Pricewaterhouse. This guy says he has never been able to see it. Actually, the thing I really enjoyed about this story just because I have an accounting degree is that this guy, like a typical accountant, prepared a detailed spreadsheet of all the ways that Comcast had screwed up.
MATT: So, it’s like a typical situation where you call in and, you know, you just know that there’s problems. Like, this guy had it all detailed out – probably perfectly balanced with the different things – so I really just enjoyed that little tidbit from it.
NASIR: Yeah, but it’s not surprising either. I’m telling you, if all of us went through, whether we’re AT&T or whatever other service providers there are, if we go through our bill, there’s almost always seems to be some bogus charges. I mean, it’s just a strange thing and I’ve never had Comcast myself but I just keep hearing it over and over again from friends and family why not to have them but it is what it is. I think, if I had personal experience with Comcast, I may boycott them, but I don’t know enough to say that – just to add to my boycott list.
MATT: That’s what you’re all about on this show – just trying to find other companies to boycott. At some point, you’re just going to be left with nothing.
MATT: We’re not even going to be able to record because you’ve boycotted every telephone service.
NASIR: I might not be able to practice law – like, just boycott all our clients.
MATT: Boycott all clients, the state bar.
NASIR: All right. Well, let’s get to our question of the day. That’s always exciting.
MATT: What do we have? Question of the day. Let’s see.
“We just brought on our first set of employees. How should we structure their pay to make them happy now and not have it backfire long-term?”
I guess the way I read this is they don’t want to pay people too much right now and then have to live up to that standard when they hire their future employees but they want to pay them enough where they’re happy. That’s how I’m feeling this.
NASIR: Yeah, it could be construed that way, or they just want to structure it so that they’re happy now but they don’t want to pay them so much that it ends up hurting them later.
To me, there’s something that doesn’t necessarily fit there because, I guess, what they’re saying when they scale then the new employees are going to have to be at the same wage or whatever. But I think that what they may be missing is that there’s only some correlation to how much you pay based upon how big of a company, how much progress you’ve made, in the sense that, in the theory, a quality employee should be worth the same amount in any job position – whether it’s a small company or big company. That might be their value but the question is whether or not they’re more willing or less willing to work for you whether you’re a big company or a small company. I think that it kind of depends upon the position but, you know, there’s people that are fitting in either case, you know? Some people are fit in a bigger corporate environment where others are more better fit to a small startup, for example.
MATT: Yeah, and I don’t know if this is a question that we can really answer that well from a legal perspective. But I would just say, from a practical perspective, just have a plan. I guess they just said they already hired the employees but hopefully they did this – have some sort of plan from the beginning and then just follow it. You don’t want to just start hiring people and have no kind of idea where things are going to go or have any sort of structure or long-term scaling. You know, this is something where you need to think about it and then kind of toss it around with the other owners or other executives and then just, you know, follow it.
NASIR: Yeah, and be careful about, after you’ve hired your first set of employees, it is a big deal because it’s something – especially from a startup perspective – to avoid. One of your biggest costs and biggest liabilities for that matter or risk liabilities is going to be your employees and the biggest moments are going to be when you’re hiring and terminating your employees and that’s going to happen. That’s the nature of it. But delaying that until the last moment is always advisable, I think, from a budget perspective, but also hiring high-quality people. You know, there’s a very common saying – and this is, again, not legal advice – but there’s a common saying that a high-qualified employee, one of them is worth three mediocre ones, and the worst thing you can do is just hire a bunch of them that are just okay, you know, and (00:10:00 unclear) what they’re worth and finding some quality personnel makes it way worth it.
MATT: Yeah, you want to go for long-term employees because it’s going to take up time, it’s going to take up money if you have a lot of turnover and have to keep hiring, conducting interviews, doing that process, keep hiring people, paying attorneys to make sure that they leave correctly or are hired correctly.
NASIR: Yeah. And then, if you’re looking for an accountant, I do know somebody that’s looking for a job currently, actually really well-qualified, he used to work for Pricewaterhouse, does have a little bit of a temper in the sense that he’s not going to put up with much injustice if you’re a cable company or something like that. Otherwise, someone I recommend.
MATT: I actually didn’t know where you were going there with that and I completely forget we talked about that person. That was only five minutes ago.
NASIR: Yeah, that was a long time ago.
MATT: I thought you actually knew someone and were trying to get them a job. It would be a pretty cool way if they got a job through this podcast though.
NASIR: That would be cool.
MATT: That’d be definitely a top ten success story for us.
NASIR: I’m going to think about, well, if anyone’s looking to fill in positions, we definitely know a lot of people and resources and we can always relay that. So, if you want to help us fulfil our mission of being a job matchmaker then please contact us.
MATT: Or just write a review on iTunes, it would also help.
NASIR: Yeah, five-star review, rate it, please. Thank you so much.
All right. Well, thanks for having us in your headphones or speaker for this episode and thanks for joining us again.
MATT: Yeah, and keep it sound and keep it smart.