Playboy Must Pay $6M to Fired Whistleblower

Thought to be the largest whistleblower payout under 2002 law

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 7, 2014 7:15 AM CST

(Newser) – A former controller at Playboy Enterprises who was fired in 2012 may have just won the largest payout ever under a 2002 law that protects whistleblowers. Playboy has been ordered to pay Catherine Zulfer $6 million for her wrongful termination, Reuters reports. Zulfer says in 2010 she refused to accrue bonuses for top executives worth $1 million because the board hadn't OKed them, and that she then told management about "actual and suspected frauds and improprieties." A jury found that she was unlawfully fired in retaliation, and also found she was discriminated against based on her age, which was 56 at the time.

Last year, Courthouse News Service reported that Zulfer accused Playboy CFO Christof Pachler of pressuring her to accrue the aforementioned bonuses in a year in which the company saw "significant losses," her complaint notes, and that much of the money would have gone to him. Zulfer's lawsuit accuses Pachler of purposely setting her up to fail and excluding her from meetings after she reported her suspicions of fraud—and of then announcing a company plot to save money by terminating employees who'd been there more than a decade; Zulfer was a 30-year employee. In a statement, Playboy said it "strongly disagree[s]" with the jury's decision and may appeal. Playboy may owe Zulfer even more after punitive damages are decided today in California. (In even crazier fraud-related news, a Florida psychic was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison over an insane $17.8 million fraud scheme.)

This file photo made June 19, 2004, shows the Playboy logo in Los Angeles.
This file photo made June 19, 2004, shows the Playboy logo in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
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