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PwC Consulting Settles Lawsuit Over Staff Bonuses

When Megan Secrest graduated from Penn State in 2001, she moved to Washington, D.C., with plans to work at PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting, where she had been offered a job at $52,000 per year and a $7,000 signing bonus.

When she got here, though, PwC Consulting, which was then a division of the giant accounting firm, told her the job was canceled and so was her bonus.

So she sued. And yesterday, she got some satisfaction.

Secrest and 272 other recent college graduates settled with PwC for $1.8 million. Secrest was the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against PwC, filed in D.C. Superior Court in September.

PwC sold its consulting group to International Business Machines Corp. for $3.5 billion in October. IBM was not part of the lawsuit.

Under terms of the settlement, each plaintiff will receive about 90 percent of the signing bonus promised by PwC, said Woodley Osborne, attorney for the group. The bonuses ranged from $3,000 to $7,000. Attorneys for the class will receive $363,000.

“I'm proud because we showed that even a big company should have to honor their commitments,” said Secrest, who after six months of unemployment found a federal job paying $40,000 a year. “It isn't really about the money. It's about making them keep their promises,” she added.

“We deny the merits of the suit and entered into a settlement to avoid the costs, burdens and disruptions of protracted litigation,” said David Silber, a PwC spokesman.

Secrest found the other members of the class through a group e-mail PwC had sent congratulating them on getting hired by the company. A number of the plaintiffs had contacted PwC on their own to ask for reimbursement for moving costs after they relocated in anticipation of getting a job, Osborne said. Although the employment contracts were “at-will” and thus could be terminated without penalty, the group's lawyers argued that the signing bonus was a contract that must be honored.

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