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Sometimes it’s better to be lucky

Another look back at the events that ended my career at Nortel and its impact on me. More importantly, on many other folks (as I got out relatively safely, only losing a lot of stock and options). I wrote this on the day that Nortel declared bankruptcy. Folks at the time said it was only temporary, it wasn’t. These are my raw feelings on that day (January 15, 2009). It is better to be lucky in life.

With Nortel’s bankruptcy protection announcement yesterday, there is a sickening scenario for some very unlucky folks (many I know personally). Today’s title comes from one of my favourite expressions, “Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than talented,”. That is how I feel right now.

I  am OK

Nortel it is better to be lucky
Nortel Once a Giant Now Deceased High Tech Firm

As background, let me outline what has happened to me regarding my layoff.

Due to restructuring, I was notified of my redundancy on July 30th of 2008. I would still be on the Nortel payroll for the next TWO months. I would have access to my office and such and could look for jobs inside of Nortel. On July 30th, I was also given the specifics of my severance package. The severance was quite generous, pretty much a full year of pay.

As part of the severance procedure, I had to take my entire severance payment (lump sum) on September 30th, or I could take some then and delay some until January 2nd 2009. The lump sum payment was split and I received a part in September and a portion in January. This was done so I didn’t have a huge tax bill for 2008.

I also was given a choice to opt out of the Nortel pension plan. I did so, and I received those funds just before Christmas as well.

All this means Nortel owes me no more money. There is a small caveat to this, which is not worth mentioning. Therefore Nortel filing for bankruptcy protection has no direct effect on me financially. Hence to comment about better to be lucky.

Some are Not So Lucky

Those notified of their redundancy after November 16th, 2008, are now in limbo (or possibly hell, I am not sure). I have heard from one former associate that his severance package is now “gone” because he has not received it yet.

I do not know if this is hearsay, rumour or fact, but it is possible. The severance package becomes part of the liabilities Nortel owes. It may well be that these severance packages are now “unsecured debt” and must be dealt with as part of bankruptcy protection.

If these folks do not get their packages, this would be diabolical (in my opinion), and I hope this is not the case, but I suspect it is a real possibility. (it was, and many folks got little or no money they were owed).

As for pensioners (retirees from Nortel), I do not know where this leaves the pension plan, given it is underfunded and the repayment of the shortfall must be dealt with as part of the bankruptcy protection plan.
In terms of investors, anybody who still holds stock in Nortel is out of luck, the paper is worthless (at least that is my guess, I am willing to hear arguments to the contrary), and the Bondholders are now part of the bankruptcy protection plan as well.

I didn’t know that since Nortel was self-insuring, all folks on Long Term Disability were treated as creditors and lost their benefits.

Bad Day Financially and Other Ways too

A sad day for me, seeing a company I worked for and enjoyed most every day there take another step toward oblivion. Many of my co-workers and former compatriots are in a “bad way” thanks to some very questionable decisions by the Senior Management Team.

I remember I was at a GIS where the present CEO, Mike Zafirofski , was attempting to put a friendly smile on the capping of the pension scheme. A former co-worker went up to the mic, criticized the CEO, and asked the pointed question at the end, “… I don’t know how you sleep at night!” I wonder how Mike Zafirofski is sleeping these days?

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Feel Free to Comment

  1. My name is Lynn Harding, worked with Nortel UK for 25 years. I took redundancy in Dec 09 and did not and have not received a penny since then.

    I need to get in touch with Nortel people in Canada/ US who are in the same situation, to share knowledge and information with our UK case against Nortel.

    Can somewbody help with a contact or the group in Canada who are also taking on Nortel ?

  2. I was wondering about your status with your pension funds, so I’m glad it worked out.

    I think my cousin, sadly, is in the latter camp of creditors, since he just got laid off in the last round.

  3. It is a sad day all around. I’m glad you are okay but it is very sad that employees owed severance are now frozen out.

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