Capital One Financial Corporation is suing former North Fork Bank executives, John Kanas and John Bohlsen, for the alleged breach of the non-compete agreements they signed with Capital One as part of Capital One’s purchase of North Fork in 2006. At issue in this case is a non-compete clause in the separation agreements the executives signed in mid-2007. The agreements stated that the two were prohibited from competing with Capital One as directors, stockholders, investors, employees, or in any other capacity in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut through August 2012. The executives had personally received more than $100 million each as part of the Capital One/North Fork merger and as compensation for agreeing to the non-compete.
After Kanas and Bohlsen left Capital One, they were members of a group of investors that purchased BankUnited, which operates in Florida. Clearly their involvement with BankUnited was not impermissible under their non-compete agreement with Capital One. The problem in this case arose when BankUnited signed an agreement to purchase Herald National Bank, a bank with offices in New York. Capital One claims, in their lawsuit, that the executives are violating their non-compete agreements by seeking to enter the New York market in direct competition with Capital One.
Mr. Kanas has issued a public statement re-asserting BankUnited’s planned acquisition of Herald Bank and that the acquisition will not cause him or Mr. Bohlsen to be in breach with their non-compete obligations with Capital One.
The issues in this case, as with most cases involving post-termination non-compete restrictions are complicated. We suggest that both the executives required to sign these agreements, as well as the companies who would like to enforce these agreements, consult a reputable employment law attorney to determine if the contract is reasonable and enforceable.