Judith Regan's threatened lawsuit against News Corp. for wrongful termination has brought the issue of employment and contract law to the forefront. Publishing lawyers contacted by PW about Regan's possible case believed that Regan would have a good chance of winning a lawsuit if she went ahead. All lawyers spoke on the condition of anonymity and none has seen Regan's contract. In general, though, these lawyers said it is very difficult for companies to enforce "terminated for cause" clauses in contracts. To make its case, "a company would have to prove an employee did something extremely detrimental to the company or ignored a direct order," one lawyer said.
Another lawyer said that by releasing information that suggested that Regan was fired for making alleged anti-Semitic remarks in a phone call with a top HarperCollins lawyer, News "put all the elements in place for an intense legal battle. Regan feels she has been dismissed unfairly and if she is to be vindicated, litigation is the preferred means." This lawyer, like nearly everyone in publishing, is puzzled why News didn't simply buy out Regan's contract. "For some reason, News felt it was necessary to make the reason for her termination public," the lawyer said. He speculated that not enough consideration was given to releasing the reasons behind Regan's ouster. The decision, he said, "appears to be more of an executive decision then a decision made by employment attorneys or human resource executives."
At press time, Regan's attorney, Bert Fields, had not gone ahead with threats to file a lawsuit against News and HC, but was promising to do so early this year.