Commerce Corp. Sues Its Former President Malcomb Cork

As Baltimore-based Commerce Corp. undergoes either a dramatic downsizing or the final steps before closing its doors (read our article covering the conflicting reports here), it is also filing a lawsuit against its former president, Malcomb Cork.

The lawsuit, filed in Maryland District Court in Baltimore, focuses on a $450,000 shareholder loan agreement made to Cork in July 2010, which Commerce alleges he did not repay, according to court papers. With accrued interest, Commerce is suing for $486,243.65, plus attorney and court fees.

In response, Cork is countersuing Commerce for breach of employment agreement. In his suit, Cork says Commerce let him go without cause, which according to the employment agreement was the only reason he could be let go without 120-day notice.

In the court filings, Cork gives his side of events from June and July 2012. Cork says he and his family were on a planned vacation to Columbia, which he alleges Commerce CEO Richard Lessans knew about, when he received an email and letter informing he was on immediate administrative leave without pay due to financial improprieties by Cork.

According to the lawsuit, the letter also requested that Cork appear the following day at the company’s attorney’s office to discuss the matter, which Cork says was not feasible since he was out of the country. Cork and his family returned to the U.S. in late July.

In the lawsuit, Cork says the dismissal stemmed from a professional disagreement between him and Lessans.

No dollar amount was specified in Cork’s countersuit, although his salary, bonuses structure and benefits were outlined as background.

Court papers indicate the two parties are in ongoing discussions. Also, the court has ordered Commerce’s lawsuit against Cork be combined with a second lawsuit it has filed against Medical Solutions International. All three parties are requesting that a delay in doing so until mid-February. A letter from Commerce’s lawyers to the court says the request is so that the parties can continue their negotiations.

“Those discussions arise from a desire to avoid, if possible, the significant costs of discovery and continued litigaions,” the letter says.

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