Apr 26, 2014

Stock Option Woes Continue

I wasn't aware of the extent of ePrize's kung-fu treachery until just recently.

In 2005 I was told that I needed to exercise a portion of my ePrize stock options due to some financial deal happening with the new Board of Directors. Being the good employee that I was, I checked to see what would be the optimal situation for my employers. Would it be better to exercise the minimum 25% or should I do more? The minimum was better for them so that's what I did. I sold 25% of my options and promptly forgot all about it until early 2006 when -- after having been fired a few weeks after the stock deal -- I got a call from Robb Lippitt telling me that there had been some kind of mix-up and that I would be required to pay taxes on my options.

I had $20,000 in options and owed ePrize $10,000. Having just been fired, I was in no financial situation to pay ePrize any money. The simple solution seemed that they should send me my $20,000 and I'd pay them out of that.

"Oh, no. That's not the way it works."

Not trusting the incredible Mr. Lippitt at all (after having been betrayed by ePrize), I told him that I needed all of the paperwork and proof of this transaction and amount due. I got this a few weeks later and was told that the money would stay in escrow until the taxes were paid off.

In 2007 I received a statement telling me that roughly $1,000 had been paid on the taxes out of the escrow interest on the base $20,000. The same thing happened in 2009, 2010, 2011. Each year I would get closer and closer to having that $10,000 in taxes paid off.

Things changed in 2012 when I got a statement not from ePrize but from "Crackerjack Holdings LLC" which stated that, instead of my base $20,000 that now I had $50,000 and still owed $8,000 in taxes... at least that's how I read it.

ePrize had been sold off at some point and it seemed that $50,000 was my pay out for the other 75% of my options (along with the original 25%, I assumed). It seemed that my options had depreciated significantly if 75% of them only netted $30,000 as opposed to the $20,000 that 25% of them netted in 2005. I could see why the former employees engaged in a lawsuit against ePrize were indignant.

I sent all of the paperwork to my accountant this year in hopes of getting things worked out. Alas, he was as confused as I was when he tried to sort everything out.

"You owe $8,000 on $50,000 that you haven't even seen yet? Is this some kind of Nigerian Prince scheme?"

I finally got in touch with someone at "Crackerjack Holdings LLC" who would take the five minutes to explain things to me.

No, I didn't owe $8,000. I didn't owe anything to anyone. At the same time, however, I wasn't owed anything. There was no money headed my way at all. No $50,000. No wonder my former co-workers were mad and this makes me even more upset that their lawsuit was dismissed.

What about the $20,000 I originally had in escrow somewhere? That has yet to be found. I talked to the lawyer who helped with the brokering of everything.

In related news, it's no big surprise that the "Crackerjack Holdings LLC" paperwork came from rbequity.com which is owned by Dan Gilbert, the same guy who bought out ePrize and the same guy who was on the board back in 2005 when this whole stock thing went down.

I came up in an era of the "dot bomb" when companies went boom or bust. I heard tales of those who owned Microsoft stock options becoming instant millionaires when the stock had it's IPO. I also heard that many options weren't worth the paper on which they were printed. I thought maybe ePrize's would fall somewhere between the two. For the years I worked at ePrize all I ever heard was how good the company was doing so when I made my peanuts but got options as holiday bonuses, I was okay.

"Some day," I thought, "this will all pay off."

The cold hard truth is that it didn't. The options ended up being both a carrot and a stick. I hope they find my original $20,000 somewhere because I really could use it. I'd like to know that somewhere along the line, my heard work and dedication paid off.

In hindsight, I should have sold 100% of those options back in 2005 so somewhere there'd be $100,000 that I'd owe $50,000 in taxes that couldn't be found instead.

I just heard from the lawyer in charge of the stock deal and found out that the original 25% that I sold, that $20,000 I thought I had coming to me, was devalued over the years and -- poof -- went away in 2012. After all these years it's rather a shock to find out that I'm not getting anything at all from either the original exercise of my options or the selling of the company. I don't know what would have happened had I paid that mysterious $10,000 in taxes that Robb Lippitt told me that I owed back in 2006. Would I have been paying taxes on something that I would never get?

To say that I'm upset right now doesn't even begin to touch how I'm feeling. Over the last few weeks I've had imagine sums snatched away from me, including one that's been in my head since 2006 as a nice little payday for all the hours I put in at ePrize. Now, it's all gone.

Vested Options 120,000
New Options 0
Total Exercisable Options 120,000
Percentage of Options Exercised 100.00%
Number of Options Exercised 120,000
Percentage of Options Sold 25.00%
Number of Options Sold 30,000
Number of Options Rolled 90,000
Strike Price / Vested Option Exercised 0
Ordinary Income Recognized 64,309
Total Cash due at Closing (Pre W/H) 14,845
Cash Attrib. to Option Units 14,845
Cash Attrib. to Existing Units 0
Stock kept 49,464
Escrow 1,277
W/H Calc'd on Cash Rec from Sale $ 2,420
"Phantom" W/H Calc'd on Stock kept $ 20,739
TOTAL TO BE W/H $ 23,158
Net Pay Calc'd $ (8,313)
Net Pay Actual (DD + 401k) $ 2,227
Amount owed to ePrize$ (10,540)