Former Digital Domain employees file objection to bonus sought for unnamed key workers

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - A group of Digital Domain employees who lost their jobs when the company collapsed is objecting to a proposal to pay unnamed key remaining employees "incentives" for getting a high price at the Sept. 21 auction of some company assets.

Two days before the sale, Digital Domain asked the judge overseeing the company's bankruptcy for authority to pay "eligible employees" and an "insider eligible employee" up to $350,000 for "a substantial commitment of time and effort ... to maximize the value to be generated by the sale."

Digital Domain's motion states the "work and effort (of) certain key employees ... is absolutely critical to the success of this process."

The motion also states the employees to receive the bonuses "are identified by title on Exhibit 1," but the exhibit was filed under seal, so no names or job titles were made public.

"Even the most basic information, such as whether the eligible employees are senior executives, middle management or rank and file is not provided," states the objection filed Wednesday by a group of former Digital Domain employees who have entered a class-action suit against the company.

The group, led by Minh-Tam Frye of Port St. Lucie, an information technology employee for Digital Domain's human resources department, is seeking 60 days pay and other benefits they say they're owed under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retaining Notification, or WARN, Act because they were not given advance notice before the Port St. Lucie studio was shut down Sept. 14.

The class-action lawsuit claims the 346 laid-off employees are owed a total of about $5.5 million.

"No longer employees," the objection states, "the WARN claimants are now creditors of (Digital Domain). They are on the outside, looking in. Hands cupped around eyes, eyes pressed against the glass, they strain to see what is going on inside."

With the motion to give bonuses to "eligible employees" without naming them, the objections states, Digital Domain has "pulled down the shades."

The incentive proposal is supposed to be discussed at a hearing Wednesday before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Brendan Linehan Shannon in Wilmington, Del., where Digital Domain filed for bankruptcy.

The objection notes Shannon approved the results of the auction Sept. 27, "so the relief requested by (Digital Domain's) motion no longer is necessary or warranted."

At the auction a consortium of Beijing Galloping Horse Film Co. in China and Reliance MediaWorks Limited in India paid $30.2 million for Mothership Media and other businesses and assets of Digital Domain Productions Inc., including studios in California and British Columbia and a coproduction stake in "Ender's Game," a science-fiction movie starring Harrison Ford scheduled to be released next year. The studio in Port St. Lucie was not part of the sale.

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