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The battle between Becker & Poliakoff and a former associate over $2,000 in back pay appears to be over. Becker and former associate Richard Valuntas agreed to settle their Palm Beach, Fla., small claims court dispute last weekend. Neither side would reveal the settlement terms. A trial had been set to start Tuesday. “It has been resolved presumably satisfactorily to both parties,” firm managing partner Alan Becker said in a statement Monday. Valuntas said: “It has been amicably resolved. That’s all I’m going to say.” The case is over after months of depositions and an estimated $100,000-plus in legal fees. Valuntas, an associate at Rosenbaum Mollengarden Janssen & Siracusa in West Palm Beach, sued Becker last August, alleging the firm committed breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation by refusing to repay him the 12 percent deducted from his paycheck for several months in an associate pay holdback program. He also claimed the involuntary pay deferral program violated his employment contract and the firm’s policy manual. Alan Becker announced the deferrals in a podcast in May 2008, saying they affected all lawyers. It turned out partners’ salary deferral was 4 percent, with partners missing one or more paychecks. During the litigation, Valuntas lambasted Becker for allegedly refusing to tap into the firm’s line of credit and instead “taking an interest free loan off the backs of its associates.” But Becker said the firm was not obligated to repay associates who were “disloyal” and left the firm. “I don’t care if they’re angry,” Becker said previously. Valuntas “thinks he’s entitled to $2,000, and we think he’s entitled to nothing.” Valuntas declined to state whether his attorney fees would be paid by Becker under the settlement. Valuntas was represented by Ethan Wayne of Gonzalez & Garcia in West Palm Beach, and Becker initially was represented by Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler and later by its own attorneys after the Rothstein firm collapsed. While other lawyers complained about the enforced salary deferrals, Valuntas was the only one to sue his former firm. Becker said at the time that the deferrals were necessary to avoid layoffs. The pay cuts were temporary, and lawyers who stayed at the firm were repaid, he said. Valuntas left in August 2008, the same month the salary deferrals ended.

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