back to article Oracle has to pay top sales rep stiffed out of $250,000, US court rules

Oracle's effort to avoid paying star sales rep Felicia Wilson an arbitration award of more than $250,000 has been rejected [PDF] by a judge in New York. After 30 months of work, Wilson in 2014 landed a deal with Pearson worth more than $10m to Oracle. Under the terms of her contract, Oracle owed her $873,638.10, but Oracle …

  1. elDog

    Larry will sooner be shafted on a 50' pike than admit wrongdoing

    There is no greater pleasure than watching a stupid prick getting royally stuck based on his own prickedness.

    How many customers have been shafted over the years, Larry?

    You now own a 2nd tier database company that can't figure out how to compete in the new world.

    Sic semper tyrannis.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Larry will sooner be shafted on a 50' pike than admit wrongdoing

      The only thing keeping Leisure Suit Larry and his minions afloat is the legacy installs. It is not impossible to migrate to another relational database but it is a real PITA with a lot of code having to be rewritten. This is tedious, buggy, and something not to do if you can avoid it.

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: Larry will sooner be shafted on a 50' pike than admit wrongdoing

        Sure it's not his boats, islands, mansions and swimming pools of money keeping him afloat? If Oracle collapsed in a heap tomorrow, Larry would be just fine I think. Given he is 73 (lots of hair dye), I don't think he is too worried about how he will stay afloat in comfort until the end.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Larry will sooner be shafted on a 50' pike than admit wrongdoing

        This is tedious, buggy, and something not to do if you can avoid it.

        Sounds remarkably like a description of Oracle..

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Larry will sooner be shafted on a 50' pike than admit wrongdoing

      Sic semper tyrannis.

      Or, more hopefully, "sic transit tyrannis*".

      *IMNALS, nor do I play one on TV.

  2. kain preacher

    Said thing is I'm sure it cost Oracle more to defend this suit.

    1. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Yeah it's the precedent though isn't it. They don't want to give their other employees ideas. Even the thought of a protracted legal battle will probably put them off on its own.

  3. FozzyBear
    Gimp

    Not exactly the sort of publicity you want as an employer.

    Wonder if they will update the HR site for Oracle to reflect the reality of working for Oracle

    "

    We will screw you if you don't perform and screw you if you do. Either way at oracle as an employee we expect you to strap on the gimp suit and enjoy the shafting you will get from upper manglement.

    Hey at least we're honest about it, what are you going to do work for HPE or IBM? Yeah thought so. Now where did I put that tube of lube.....

    If you have found an error or need to leave a comment click on the link below

    yourperferenceofjobsite

    "

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not exactly the sort of publicity you want as an employer.

      And today I got a letter saying that HPE is not going to increase our pensions even by inflation this year. Actually a 0% increase.

      More money for the 'nobs' to retire on I suppose.

      Nuke the lot of them. The only winners are those with corner offices and golden everything.

  4. Richocet

    Wasting the courts time

    I find it irritating how some businesses with deep pockets keep appealing in the courts hoping that the next level of court will side with them, no matter how frivolous their grounds for appeal.

    It's a key factor in how they are able to harass people with shallower pockets than them, for example in this case they appealed instead of giving her the payment the court ruled they owed her. They get to hang onto the money in the meantime, and she goes without.

    In other cases the party awarded the payment could be facing eviction, needing expensive medial treatment etc. which makes this practice proportionately more evil.

    And sometimes this tactic is used to buy time while they strip the assets of the company and put it into administration so they don't have to pay.

    My point is the system is unbalanced.

    1. FozzyBear

      Re: Wasting the courts time

      Oh, in this instance I honestly believe Oracle thinks it was in the right. Which makes that much more unbelievable

      But then, as you pointed out, rather than pointedly telling the lawyers concerned to fuck off while their submissions are fed through the shredder, you have a court system that feeds this type of behaviour,

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Wasting the courts time

        "you have a court system that feeds [on] this type of behaviour,"
        FTFY...

      2. Hollerithevo Silver badge

        Re: Wasting the courts time

        The courts have a duty to hear cases. Frivolous suits to get dismissed pretty quickly, but if we could all decide that we could ignore legal proceedings, then the based-on-law part of our society ends, and you get the sort of law Belarus enjoys.

        And on what grounds you think Oracle is in the right baffles me.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wasting the courts time @hollerith

          "And on what grounds you think Oracle is in the right baffles me."

          He didn't state that Oracle was the righteous party here.

          I read it like this: the Oracle management were deluded enough to think that Oracle is rightfully cutting the sales rep commission. Or the legal department said to them that they have a surefire bullet-proof case.

    2. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      Re: Wasting the courts time

      I find it irritating how some businesses with deep pockets keep appealing in the courts hoping that the next level of court will side with them, no matter how frivolous their grounds for appeal.

      It's a key factor in how they are able to harass people with shallower pockets than them, for example in this case they appealed instead of giving her the payment the court ruled they owed her. They get to hang onto the money in the meantime, and she goes without.

      I agree 100% but a significant part of the problem is that appeals courts so often overturn decisions made by lower courts. If the lower courts got it right more often, so that the appeals success rate was minuscule, then we wouldn't be reading about this now.

      Perhaps if you were allowed to sue the lower court for getting it wrong, there would be an incentive for them to improve? But they'd probably only appeal...

      1. david 136

        Re: Wasting the courts time

        Can you point to any data suggesting appeals succeed often? My understanding is that overrulings are very rare. The first data I could find does not seem to support your view, see page 33 of http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/2016-Court-Statistics-Report.pdf

        where just 4% of all appeals are upheld.

    3. Wade Burchette Silver badge

      Re: Wasting the courts time

      The hypocrisy of it is what disgusts me. Oracle makes you waive your right to sue them but not their right to sue you. Rules for me and rules for thee.

    4. Harry Stottle

      Re: Wasting the courts time

      simple solution, at least for cases like this where deep pocket is trying to with-hold an award. Allow them to appeal as long and often as they like; with a 1% interest charge PER DAY from the date of the original award. Payable only if they lose, of course...

      1. G.Y.

        Re: Wasting the courts time

        Israel's wage protection act lets the judge award up to 5% per week; this is mainly to make employers' legal departments to avoid delaying tactics.

        1. kain preacher

          Re: Wasting the courts time

          Here in my home state of California it's up to 33.33% a day or a max of 30 days. Oh and thats compound interest.

  5. EveryTime

    This is barely touching Oracle. They already have a bad reputation, and the penalty for failing to pay was a 3% interest rate. Oh, and having to pay lawyers, but that's a mitzvah to Oracle.

  6. LDS Silver badge

    Remember, only executive must be rewareded....

    .... regardless of whatever they did. It's necessary to keep the caste system working.

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    WTF?

    "alleged exclusion of evidence as it does not identify the evidence that it would have presented,"

    Seriously WTF?

    "You honour we've got absolutely rock solid evidence that this woman is a liar, a cheat and a poor employee. It's terrific. In fact it's too good to show you and we're not going to show it to you, it's that good."

    My first reaction would have been "How many yards of coke did you snort before coming here," followed by "are you f**king kidding me."

    I keep hearing this guy as well

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: "alleged exclusion of evidence [snip]

      "I keep hearing this guy as well"
      The uploader has not made this video available in your country. Well, fuck you too then...

      And your title is too long...

      1. WolfFan Silver badge

        Re: "alleged exclusion of evidence [snip]

        It was a vid of SNL portraying Sean Spicer doing his Baghdad Bob impression.

    2. Fatman
      Thumb Up

      Re: "alleged exclusion of evidence

      <quote>My first reaction would have been "How many yards of coke did you snort before coming here," followed by "are you f**king kidding me."</quote>

      I UPVOTED you just for that alone!!!!

  8. sorry, what?
    Stop

    I wonder if...

    She will share her dosh with all those technical and admin folks who helped her land the deal.

    Actually, no I don't. Of course she won't.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I wonder if...

      Sorry, what? (indeed)

      Do the tech/admin folks share their dosh with the saleswoman? If they sell nothing the techs&admins would be looking for another job now. Should the CEO or owner also share profits - or losses - with the crew?

      Getting into sales is easy and doesn't require a degree of any kind. Getting into the lucrative sales require a history of success in sales. There are plenty of sales jobs available and if you're good you can make a lot more you can as a tech. (as evidenced by the Oracle rep)

      Selling is not easy and I have seen many try - and fail to sell practically anything even if the products should be selling themselves. Some people have 'it' and can persuade eskimos to buy freezers, and those should be rewarded properly with the agreed commission, unlike what Oracle did here.

      1. The Mole

        Re: I wonder if...

        I agree with you that undoubtedly being a good sales person is hard and becoming one requires experience and skills. But then the exact same can be said for the senior technical people who put at least as much time, skill and effort into ensuring that a potential bid can be converted into a sale (and then have to live with the consequences of what exaggerated claims have been made).

        But there appears to be this weird expectation that sales people have to be bribed to do the their job, if they weren't getting bribes (sorry sales based bonuses) then they will just sit back and not do their job properly. Unlike other roles where people are (rightly) expected to do the job they are being paid for well and where, if they are lucky, get a bonus as a multiplier of their salary based upon their and the companies general performance not tied to individual sales.

        All I can think is it was some very good sales people that managed to sell that idea to management.

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: I wonder if...

          >>But there appears to be this weird expectation that sales people have to be bribed to do the their job, if they weren't getting bribes (sorry sales based bonuses) then they will just sit back and not do their job properly.

          It's a different reward model. Paying people a fixed amount is neither more nor less valid than paying people primarily by performance-based bonuses. It is simply different. You imply it is unfair where people "if they are lucky" get a bonus. But I don't know any sales person who makes a credible salary independent of bonuses. The bonuses are the primary reward for people and their salary is not.

          And the reason this model is likely used rather than the flat salary model for sales people is that sales is competitive in a way that programming day in and day out is not. A programmer is not, typically, going out looking to create more work for themself. They show up, do their work (hopefully well) and go home. Competition is minimal. Maybe a little for limited advancement to senior programmer. Nor do you want your programmers to all be hyper-competitive because the only people they would be competing with are others within the same company. But Sales you want to be competitive. Because daily, they are going out and trying to snatch the meat from the jaws of your rivals. They're your front line. So you have a pay structure that rewards competitiveness.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I wonder if...

            It bugs me that sales people are still paid big commissions, even in companies bidding for government work. The government's procurement rules mean that the "sales" input should be minimal to none.

            Competitive tendering rules mean anyone can bid. And bid assessment processes are designed to ensure the contract is awarded based only on objective assessment of the submitted bid document - not on any interaction with the salesperson that might hint at favouritism. The bid document is 90% written by people on salaries. All the salesperson did was choose the tender to bid for, and manage the bid writing process. It doesn't seem like a job that needs commission-based remuneration instead of salary.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I wonder if...

              You obviously don't know anything about the sales process - even in government / military business. The outcomes of POC's can be manipulated at many levels and the best tool / solution does not always win. Salespeople have an enormous influence over the process in ways you know nothing about.

            2. Gerhard Mack

              Re: I wonder if...

              "It bugs me that sales people are still paid big commissions, even in companies bidding for government work. The government's procurement rules mean that the "sales" input should be minimal to none."

              It might seem high and it is, but trying to limit the commission runs into the law of unintended consequences. You need your sales people to push through as many deals as possible. Putting too small of a percent means sales reps only chase large deals since the smaller sales won't be worth their time, and capping the total commission means sales people only chase the smaller deals since the larger the deal, the more work it is to get it.

              A 10 million dollar deal would have taken many months of work to push though. Not that long ago, I had a sales rep spazzing on the phone about how long it was taking to push through a deal with our parent company and that deal was a fraction of this size.

              Keep in mind that once you subtract her commission, she brought in over 9 million dollars of revenue for Oracle.

          2. Tom 38 Silver badge

            Re: I wonder if...

            But Sales you want to be competitive. Because daily, they are going out and trying to snatch the meat from the jaws of your rivals. They're your front line. So you have a pay structure that rewards competitiveness.

            Yeah but no. Sales people stealing leads from other sales people within the company? Extremely poor form. The only thing they should be competitive on is on how much new money/renewals they bring in, which is based upon how good at convincing the various people within the target company that the deal is good.

            There is huge variance of luck involved, you are allocated leads and if the leads allocated to you are more likely to buy than the ones allocated to your colleague, you won't have to do as much work to land them. A sales person working hard should hit 100% of target; a sales person working hard and getting lucky might hit 900% of target; they aren't working 9 times as hard as the person hitting 100% of target, they just got lucky.

            However spin that around; the one making 100% of target is working flat out to do that, because one of these days he's going to be the lucky one and have a massive quarter; it encourages them to all work like dogs.

            And by work, I mean swan around drinking coffees and talking to people on the phone 24x7. I couldn't do it.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I wonder if...

          From 25 years experience in the industry I can tell you that its fairly straight forward to teach/educate someone technically, selling is an art form that is far more difficult to learn. Essentially you're able to do it or you're not, especially with an axe over your head every quarter knowing if you don't produce you're fired. Most technical people cannot live that way (I've had some that tried who had night terrors, ulcers, etc and had to move back to an SC role). My recommendation to you is pick up a bag, carry a quota and see if you can make it. See what it's like to have to deal with pompous technical people internally (not saying you are but it seems a possibility), asshole customers who may not know what they're doing and that you have to fake that you like, while spending your free time taking them to ballgames, dinners or whatever instead of being with your own family. You will have far more respect for the A players in sales that drive revenue that keep the technical people employed and the stock price going up.... (A perfect example would be Siebel CRM - worst platform of all time but man they could sell. How they were beating Salesforce back in the day should be studied - also why Oracle eventually killed it)

          1. Gerhard Mack

            @Anonymous Coward Re: I wonder if...

            Now you are making the opposite mistake. Most sales people I know can't really manage the technical side either. That is a skill in itself, just like sales.

            This sales vs technical debate is annoying.. A company with only techs has solid products and few people to tell them to. A company with only sales people would have nothing to actually sell.

            If you don't pay your techs well, they quit and your product quality suffers. If you don't pay your sales reps well, they quit and there are not enough sales to pay everyone's salaries.

    2. wyatt

      Re: I wonder if...

      I've never had anything from sales and don't expect it. thanks would be nice sometimes though.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: I wonder if...

        "I've never had anything from sales and don't expect it. thanks would be nice sometimes though."
        Really? You work for nothing then; not wages, or salary. If you do make wages or salary, and I strongly suspect you do, then that comes from the sales staff selling stuff. When was the last time you thanked sales for generating the business income needed to pay you?

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: I wonder if...

        thanks would be nice sometimes though

        *Cough* *choke* *gasp*.

        You should warn before making statements like that - liable to cause those of us with the (dis) pleasure of working with Sales types[1] an anurysm..

        I've heard more likely things - cats living in peace with dogs[2], Trump getting something right[3], MIcrosoft saying "we won't slurp any more of your data, honest" and actually removing the data hose..

        [1] To be fair, some of them I've worked with have been nice, realistic and appreciated the IT staff. Most of them though[4]..

        [2] They can do. Or at least, the cats tell me that the dog is getting better trained and now knows his place.

        [3] Stopped clock and all that.

        [4] If I had a bottle of nice wine for every time I'm been told to "just do your **** job" by some jumped up sales type making an unreasonable demand I'd be even more mellow than I usually am..

    3. Andre Carneiro

      Re: I wonder if...

      Surely what's at stake here is not the reward model, whether the amount she is owed was disproportionate or even whether it was fair.

      There was a contract. A contract! And in that contract, presumably, Oracle (rightly or wrongly in your eyes) agreed to pay a certain percentage that they then reneged on and THAT is the crux of it.

  9. short

    Quite a lot of money

    $873,638.10 for a $10M contract. Is that sort of ratio normal? Has she already spent large chunks of it during the 30 months sales job, on 'lunches with the purchasers' and stuff like that?

    This is a world I know nothing about, but it sounds interesting.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Quite a lot of money

      Now you know where the money goes and why your after sales service is so shit / expensive.

    2. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: Quite a lot of money

      I think El Ref's numbers are wrong. Or it's a multi year deal worth that much a year and she only gets commission once.

    3. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Quite a lot of money

      10% wouldn't sound too outragous, especially if they were expecting the sales rep to be selling things worth a few hundred/thousand and having a lower base salary as encouragement to do deals.

      When they turn up saying "I did a 10 million deal" then the bosses probably blinked and said "great!". Untill the bill landed for the commission. If Oracle didn't want to pay out the better part of a million in bonuses then they should probably have have drafted the contract better and put a ceiling to payments in the contract.

      One can only imagine that the top level bosses weren't happy that somebody was earning as much as they were in the year.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Quite a lot of money

      Sales compensation is typically on a sliding scale with escalators kicking in once you hit 100% +. So getting around 8-9% of a $10M sale is par for the course. What they don't talk about is that sale may have taken her years to close and she may have even been on a plan to be fired if it didn't. Compensation plans can be changed at any time by your employer, but once you sell something they cannot retroactively change the rules to pay you less as was the case here. I'm shocked she didn't sue for punitive damages as now her name is tied to suing her employer and can/will effect her future employment.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "landed a deal with Pearson worth more than $10m to Oracle"

    $10m is a very small number for an enterprise deal with a company the size of Pearson, and with Pearson's use of Oracle at the time.

    Pearson uses Oracle's EBS and SCM as well as a large number of database instances.

    I suspect Oracle were upset that she'd undersold or she trod on the toes of another salesman.

    All the above is publicly available through Google, but I'll AC just in case.

  11. Tubz

    Good to see such a dodgy company get its ass whipped when trying to screw an employee out of her rightful pay !

  12. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    This stuff is never an impulse buy.

    No CTO gets out of bed one morning and thinks "I'm feeling stoked today. Let's switch the whole operation to Oracle."

    And given's Oracles equivocal reputation with its customers you'd have to work pretty hard to convince someone that they weren't getting in the pool with a great White shark (with or without attached lasers).

    Do sales people deserve their bonus? The strict answer should be does the whole life revenue (all the licenses, license renewals, support contracts, training contracts, etc) exceed it by a big enough margin? If it does then yes. If not then no.

    But the common sense view of this would be "I started working on this deal under my old contract, I should be rewarded as per the rules of the old contract, not the new contract, which didn't exist when I started this."

    And f**k me sideways it looked like the Judge agreed with them.

    On second thought, perhaps that shouldn't have been too surprising, to anyone who isn't in the senior management of a very greedy US corporation and cannot quite believe that (despite them being almost impossible to meet) someone has actually hit their sales target to qualify for this level of bonus.

  13. hellwig

    You can't fight arbitration, can you?

    Hasn't the US court system already ruled that forcing the waiver of right to sue and binding parties to arbitration via contract to be sound?

    On what grounds could Oracle have possibly argued with the decision of an "independent, impartial third-party arbiter"? (yes, I know they made up some grounds, but what in the agreement lets them even dispute the outcome?).

  14. gnarlymarley

    I wonder why the court out of disgust just does not add on an additional 10% or so each time Oracle complains in this case.

    Something like, "What you don't like $257,000. Maybe we should make it $283,000. Don't like that? How about $311,000."

    I am sure that after a while of this, the lawsuits would stop quicker, if the company/person who kept appealing and losing had some extra "sore loser" fees tacked on.

  15. Stephen McLaughlin

    Seems high, but around 10% commission is fairly common

    I definitely see where the high commission is deserved, especially winning a contract from a new customer, essentially getting your foot in the door. But I also see where IT staff should get recognition as well. I was on a large commercial contract and our company was the incumbent going into a major tech refresh. Our experience with the existing IT environment was heavily referenced in the proposal. During the selection phase, management had us basically bending over backwards to please the customer, which meant long hours for the IT staff. When our company was awarded the new contract, the sales team had a huge, upscale party for management and we got a pat on the back. We weren't even mentioned by name in the company newsletter boasting about the win. Needless to say, within a month, several of us had moved on.

    1. Tim99 Silver badge

      Re: Seems high, but around 10% commission is fairly common

      I used to buy expensive scientific toys. One of my favourite salesmen visited about 6 times a year. His lead-time for the sale he made to us was 18 months. After the sale had gone through and the G&Ts were flowing I asked him what he would buy with his commission. He told me that his base salary was about 1.5 times mine and his commission was "only 1%". He was in his late 50s and knew the business, and the kit, inside-out. The kit he sold me cost about 20 times that of my house. Commission on 5 sales would have bought my house. He was good at his job and would have sold 5 a year. As technology has got cheaper in real terms, the cost of similar kit would now be about the same as my (smaller) house. In those days a mortgage was ~3 times your salary.

      I noticed a few years later that the sales reps that I saw were often young, female and good looking. If asked a technical question, they often would look in the sales literature (I normally had a copy) and if unable to answer (which was often) they "got back to me".

  16. VulcanV5

    Punitively yours . . .

    Oracle is not contending that its employee didn't -- by her own hard work -- win this contract. Nor is it disputing that she worked on this deal for two YEARS (and six months) to achieve it. On which basis, then, Felicity has been a model employee.

    In response to that, Oracle has sought to breach the contract it had with her; intimidate her with legal action which Oracle can easily afford but which she could not (because no-one can ever be certain they'll succeed against a deep-pockets corporation's lawyers); subject her to sustained stress in consequence of that deliberate intimidation.

    I don't know enough about the Law to know what she can do now, but were it me, I'd be looking to bring an action against Oracle for punitive damages.

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