Former Spansion CEO, concerned about fired employees, returns sev
Former Spansion CEO, concerned about fired employees, returns severance
Declaring "I am literally in tears" over the firing of 3,000 employees at computer chip maker Spansion, the company's former chief executive told the Mercury News on Friday he is returning $403,000 in severance money he got from his recent retirement in hopes it can be used to help the laid-off workers.
"My heart is broken to see that large amount of great people have been laid off without any severance," Bertrand Cambou also said in a letter sent Friday to the board of directors of Sunnyvale-based Spansion.
Cambou, 53, retired Feb. 2 after serving as president and CEO since 2003. In an interview with the Mercury News, he said, "I hope they are going to take some of that money and give it to the people" who were laid off.
Cambou, who noted he is still consulting with Spansion but looking for a full-time job, said he received $751,000 in severance, and all but $403,000 went to taxes.
"We appreciate Dr. Cambou's symbolic gesture and his concern for the welfare of Spansion and its employees," the company said in a prepared statement, adding, "We are talking with Dr. Cambou about his offer." The statement did not indicate how Spansion might use the money.
The fired workers also have claimed they were let go without proper notice under the state's so-called WARN Act, which generally requires large companies to give a 60-day notice before laying off 50 or more people.
Two class-action lawsuits filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Jose claim the company failed to comply with the WARN law. But Spansion officials have said they didn't have to comply with the prior-notice provision because they qualified under a legal exemption that they have declined to specify.
Cambou's gesture touched 38-year-old Eric Rubaker of Boulder Creek, who was among those fired and is named as a plaintiff on one of the class-action suits.
"Oh my gosh, wow!" Rubaker responded. "He really is a nice man."
Among other things, Rubaker urged Spansion to use Cambou's money to pay for the laid-off workers' health insurance. "That could really help everybody out," he said.
"I'm floored," added laid-off 54-year-old Paula Rao of Santa Clara, when informed of Cambou's action. "I think it absolutely should be given to the employees who were separated from the company. ... Maybe it's too little too late. But it would still salve the wounds a little bit."