In the following scenario, does the individual have a legal case against the company? And if so, what law specifically can be applied?
A company offers x% equity. The individual engages. The company stalls, eventually offering "x% of profits during employ". The company has acted unethically and cheated the individual, but does the individual have legal recourse?
A US company (Delaware) engages an individual (UK citizen) to manifest the core technology in exchange for a wage plus x% equity. The CEO projects the value of this equity to be eventually several million dollars.
The company stalls on presenting a full legal contract, stating that the internal structure is in flux, presenting instead an interim contract which the individual signs, which makes no mention of equity.
The individual commences work, bringing great value to the company.
After six months the company finally produces a full legal contract. It offers x% of profits made by the company within the duration of employ. This is absolutely different from x% equity.
The individual complains that this is clearly of considerably lesser value (orders of magnitude) from what was offered. First a product must be built. Only then can it be sold. The company has cheated the individual.
The investor who initially said "Don't worry, we will not hold you to your stake" now says "We have decided only to reward those that are actively contributing". When challenged (on Slack) for reneging directly upon his word, he remains silent.
The CEO says "We can only offer this "phantom" equity due to the way the company has been structured. This is the offer now, take it or leave it. We plan to revise the company structure later."
Over the next 18 months, the individual continues to develop the core technology, while refusing to sign any contract that mentions this "phantom" equity.
By the end of this period almost the entire technical wing of the company is composed of hires made by the individual. The individual has made a brilliant sequence of moves that would not otherwise have been made, sourcing / hiring developers in capacities in such a way as to guarantee the future of the company's product.
Eventually the individual disengages. No revision has occurred. It seems clear that the company has no intention to honour the initial offer. And the product will now succeed. There is no incentive to continue.
Initial email correspondence between individual and CEO making clear that the offer is for 2.5% equity
Verified download of all company communication through Slack privy to the individual, demonstrating:
- repeated attempts by the individual for the company to honour their promise
- Evasive behaviour from the CEO
- The investor simply disconnecting from the discussion upon being challenged
Contract revisions proffered by the company