The general counsel of LoJack Corp. has beaten a contempt judgment, but he still must kick in additional alimony to his ex-wife for money he made in company stock.
The Appeals Court of Massachusetts found on Aug. 18 that Thomas A. Wooters, executive vice president and top in-house counsel for the anti-auto theft company, ran afoul of a divorce judgment when he failed to pay his ex-wife’s portion of the $1.2 million he earned in 2006.
Wooters, formerly of counsel at Sullivan & Worcester and partner at Peabody & Arnold, had asserted that a chunk of his 2006 earnings came from exercising some of his LoJack stock options, which were not part of the divorce agreement.
The three-judge intermediate appeals panel held, as a matter of first impression, that the money he made from exercising his stock options was part of his “gross annual employment income” for purposes of alimony. At the same time, the appeals court reversed the lower court and found that his failure to pay Janet S. Wooters additional alimony did not amount to “clear and undoubted disobedience of a clear and unequivocal demand” within the divorce agreement.
“To a reasonable person, it may not be readily apparent that stock option proceeds constitute one’s gross annual income, especially if it is not defined as such in the parties’ divorce decree,” wrote Judge Gary S. Katzmann, who authored the court’s opinion in Wooters v. Wooters, No. 08-P-824.
The panel noted that no other published opinion in Massachusetts had addressed whether money received from exercising stock options is part of gross annual income for purposes of alimony.
In reversing the contempt ruling, the panel pointed out that Wooters had made “timely and correct” alimony payments for 15 years.
Wooters, 68, joined LoJack in 2003 from Sullivan & Worcester. His total compensation in 2008 was $430,890, according to Hoover’s Inc. company records. He declined to comment on the decision. Janet Wooters could not be reached for comment.
LoJack, traded on the Nasdaq exchange, manufactures wireless auto tracking devices. The company had $198.7 million