On Appeal from the Superior Court, Law Division, Bergan County.
Pressler, Baime and Ashbey. The opinion of the court was delivered by Pressler, P.J.A.D.
[218 NJSuper Page 113] Plaintiff Arthur Shebar instituted this action against his former employer, defendant Sanyo Business Systems, claiming that he had been wrongfully discharged and was also the victim of its actionable fraud and its malicious interference with his
prospective employment by its competitor, Sony Corporation. He appeals from the entry of summary judgment dismissing his complaint. We reverse.
The record on the motion for summary judgment, viewed most favorably to plaintiff, permitted the finding of the following facts. Sanyo, a Delaware corporation whose principal place of business is in Bergen County, New Jersey, is a wholly owned subsidiary of a Japanese company. It hired Shebar as national sales manager for its computer division in December 1981. No written contract was then entered into. Shebar continued in this employment for the next several years, receiving frequent commendation from his superiors as well as increased responsibilities and remuneration. His certification asserts that he was frequently congratulated on his successful sales performance and that in early 1984 "defendant won an award and I was singled out by my superiors as being principally responsible for that award. My participation in this award was published in numerous Tokyo publications."
Despite his apparent success with Sanyo, Shebar nevertheless decided in September 1984 to seek other employment, having come to the conclusion that it was Sanyo's policy to employ only Japanese nationals in levels of employment higher than his and objecting to what he referred to as Sanyo's insistence on Japanese quota-setting sales practices, which he regarded as unsound in the context of American business enterprise.*fn1 He
then consulted an executive search firm where he dealt with a Mr. Mersand, who arranged an interview for him with Sony. Sony offered him a position as national sales manager with "an expressed assurance" that he would become a vice-president "within a reasonable period of time." Shebar accepted the Sony offer, having first determined that Sony did in fact employ American vice-presidents and that it did not engage in the business practices he found objectionable.
The critical events are alleged to have taken place on October 1, 1984, when Shebar submitted his written resignation to Sanyo. According to his certification, he was then called into the office of his superior, Mr. Yamazaki. An executive vice-president and apparently Shebar's immediate superior, Mr. Yamashita, was also present. The two expressed their dismay and, as Shebar describes it, the following then occurred:
9. * * * Mr. Yamazaki held my resignation letter and dramatically ripped it to shreds. Mr. Yamazaki was Sanyo's president and he stated "I will not accept your resignation. We will solve your problems". The remainder of the meeting seemed to be positive and productive. I was told by both gentlemen that my performance was exceptionally good, that I had achieved results for Sanyo which they never really expected could have been achieved, and that they [were] unaware of my concern for the "Japanese way" of doing business (versus the American way). I was asked to state the problems which I found, and I did in detail. Messrs. Yamashita and Yamazaki met all of my requests
and then insisted that I not accept the Sony offer. Although money was not discussed in detail, they assured me that I was to receive a substantial remuneration increase in March 1985.
10. At that meeting, Messrs. Yamazaki and Yamashita expressly stated to me that Sanyo does not fire its managers. I was told that I had a job for the rest of my life. I was told that Sanyo had never fired, and never intended to ...