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Edward Matthew Buckley v. Peak6 Investments

October 27, 2011

EDWARD MATTHEW BUCKLEY PLAINTIFF,
v.
PEAK6 INVESTMENTS, LP, PEAK6 MEDIA LLC, PEAK6 LLC, PEAK6 ONLINE LLC,
JENNIFER JUST, AND MATT HULSIZER DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. Holderman, Chief Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On June 23, 2010, plaintiff Matthew Edward Buckley ("Buckley") filed a seven-count complaint against PEAK6 Investments, LP, PEAK6 Media LLC, PEAK 6 LLC, PEAK6 Online LLC, Jennifer Just, and Matt Hulsizer, asserting claims under Illinois law for tortious interference with contractual relations (Counts 1 & 5), tortious interference with a prospective business relationship (Count 2), intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count 3), and breach of contract (Count 4). Dkt. No. 1 ("Complaint"). The complaint also alleged violations of the Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act ("USERRA"), 38 U.S.C. §§ 4301-4333 (Counts 6-7). Currently before the court is defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 71) seeking dismissal of all counts. Also before the court is Buckley's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's Claims for Tortious Interference (Dkt. No. 75), asking for judgment in his favor on Counts 1 and 2. For the reasons stated below, defendants' motion is granted and plaintiff Buckley's motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

I. Buckley's Military Service While at PEAK6 PEAK6 Investments, LP ("PEAK6"), a financial services firm, hired Edward Matthew Buckley, a former Navy pilot, to be the CEO of its subsidiary PEAK6 Media LLC in February 2006. Dkt. No. 83 ("Pl.'s Local R. 56.1(b)(3) Resp.") ¶¶ 1, 25. At that time, Buckley was serving in the naval reserves, a position that required his periodic absence from PEAK6. To accommodate such absences, PEAK6 had a "Vacation Time Policy" which allowed employees to take military leave for up to fifteen consecutive days per year with pay. Dkt. No. 72 ("Def.'s Mem. Law Supp. Mot. Summ. J."), Ex. H, at 3. The policy gave an employee two options for pay while on military leave. Id. First, he could collect his full salary minus the amount of his military pay, and preserve all of his vacation time. Id. Alternatively, he could choose to use vacation time for half of up to fifteen days of military leave and collect his full salary. Id. For any military leave beyond fifteen days, the employee would be paid only if he chose to use his vacation time. Id.

Buckley's service in the naval reserves lasted until December 2006. Dkt. No. 92 ("Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Local R. 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. of Add'l Facts") ¶ 2. According to PEAK6, all of Buckley's requests for paid military and vacation leave were approved during that time, and Buckley received his full salary in 2006 without any deductions for time off. Dkt. No. 73 ("Def.'s Local R. 56.1(a)(3) Stmt.") ¶¶ 43, 44, 46. Buckley agrees that none of his requests were denied, although he asserts that they were not affirmatively approved. Dkt. No. 92 ("Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Local R. 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. of Add'l Facts") ¶¶ 43, 44.

Buckley also points to additional evidence showing that PEAK6 was not always helpful with respect to his military service. According to Buckley, PEAK6 disapproved of his military service and conditioned his continued employment on his quitting the reserves. Dkt. No. 84 ("Pl.'s Local R. 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. of Add'l Facts") ¶ 3. In addition, PEAK6 sent emails to Buckley and expected him to work while he was on military leave, and also told him that he was taking too much leave. Id. ¶¶ 4, 6.

II. The Non-Competition Agreement and Buckley's Employment at Investools Buckley's employment at PEAK6 continued until July 10, 2009. Dkt. No. 92 ("Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Local R. 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. of Add'l Facts") ¶ 9. The parties agree that Buckley was thereafter subject to a non-competition agreement, although they disagree about which agreement applied. It is undisputed that Buckley signed a first agreement in April 2007 ("2007 Agreement"), shortly after being hired. Dkt. No. 83 ("Pl.'s Local R. 56.1(b)(3) Resp.") ¶ 27, and PEAK6 maintains the 2007 Agreement is still in force. Buckley asserts, however, that he signed another agreement in 2009 ("2009 Agreement") that replaces the 2007 Agreement, although he has not been able to produce a signed copy of it. Id. ¶¶ 31-32.

The non-competition agreement is significant because Buckley alleges that it interfered with his subsequent attempts to gain employment. After leaving PEAK6, Buckley entered into conversations with Investools, Inc. ("Investools"), the investor education arm of Thinkorswim, an options trader and division of TD Ameritrade, Inc, about potential employment. Id. ¶ 62. On July 21, Joe Kinahan, the Managing Director of Live Events for Thinkorswim, offered Buckley a job at Investools. Dkt. No. 72 ("Def.'s Mem. Law Supp. Mot. Summ. J."), Ex. Z ("Buckley Dep."), at 264:4-24. Buckley testified that he accepted the job immediately and was told that he had been hired. Id. at 266:4-11. Kinahan, by contrast, testified that he told Buckley that Investools would have to check with Buckley's previous employer before the offer was final. Dkt. No. 72 ("Def.'s Mem. Law Supp. Mot. Summ. J."), Ex. AA ("Kinahan Dep."), at 24:1-5.

On July 22, the CEO of Thinkorswim, Tom Sosnoff, called Buckley's former supervisor at PEAK6, Matt Hulsizer. Dkt. No. 84 ("Pl.'s Local R. 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. of Add'l Facts"), Ex. 66. During their conversation, Hulsizer told Sosnoff that he "believed [Buckley] would have a non-compete." Dkt. No. 72 ("Def.'s Mem. Law Supp. Mot. Summ. J."), Ex. AC ("Hulsizer Dep.") 84:15-21. The next day Kinahan called Buckley and told him that his job offer was rescinded. Dkt. No. 83 ("Pl.'s Local R. 56.1(b)(3) Resp.") ¶ 69; Dkt. No. 92 ("Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Local R. 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. of Add'l Facts") ¶ 17. Shortly thereafter, Buckley contacted Hulsizer, who told him that he would not waive the non-competition agreement. Dkt. No. 83 ("Pl.'s Local R. 56.1(b)(3) Resp.") ¶ 71. Subsequently, Kinahan emailed Buckley to inform him that he'd be "interested in doing something once the waters clear" on the non-competition agreement. Dkt. No. 84 ("Pl.'s Local R. 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. of Add'l Facts"), Ex. 65.

III. Buckley's Employment at Options University Buckley next applied for and obtained a position at Options University Group, LLC ("Options University"), an investor education firm. Dkt. No. 83 ("Pl.'s Local R. 56.1(b)(3) Resp.")

¶ 73. On April 1, 2010, PEAK6 sent a letter to Options University asking Options University to remove information from its website that it stated violated PEAK6's confidentiality agreement with Buckley. Id. ¶ 74. The letter also threatened legal action if Options University did not comply. Subsequent discussions between the two parties resolved the issue without litigation, and Options University removed the offending items. Id. ¶¶ 75, 77. Brett Fogle, the President of Options University, stated that the threat of litigation from PEAK6 "frightened" him, that the removal of the information from the website "negatively impacted the sales of the campaign Buckley was responsible for," and that the reduction in revenue "impacted Buckley's contractual relationship with Options University because he was being compensated on [sic] commission basis." Dkt. No. 84 ("Pl.'s Local R. 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. of Add'l Facts"), Ex. N ¶¶ 7, 11-12.

LEGAL STANDARD

A grant of summary judgment is proper "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). "There is no genuine issue of material fact when no reasonable jury could find in favor of the nonmoving party." Brewer v. Bd. of Trs. of the Univ. of Ill., 479 F.3d 908, 915 (7th Cir. 2007). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must consider the facts before it in the light most favorable to the ...


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