Jury rules in favor of Disney VP

(South Coast Today, April 22, 2000)

LOS ANGELES -- The Walt Disney Co. coerced a dying, AIDS-infected executive into signing away millions of dollars in benefits, a federal jury ruled yesterday.

Jurors rejected Disney's argument that Robert Jahn gave up the benefits to avoid being fired for taking kickbacks.

"It's a moral victory. This is the appropriate verdict. And I hope this corporation gets the message. It shouldn't conduct business like this," said Larry Sackey, an attorney for Jahn's estate.

Disney's lawyer had no comment after the 8-0 verdict.

U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson will decide later how much Disney owes Jahn's estate.

Jahn was a senior vice president at Disney Motion Pictures & Television Co., in charge of making trailers and TV ads for Disney films. He died of AIDS-related complications in 1996.

Jahn's estate sued Disney, accusing the company of forcing Jahn to relinquish $2.2 million in stock options, life insurance and deferred compensation. In exchange, according to testimony from Disney witnesses, the company agreed to let Jahn keep his medical benefits and agreed not to expose him for allegedly taking millions in kickbacks from vendors.

Lawyers for Jahn's estate denied Jahn ever took kickbacks, but said he was on his deathbed and didn't have the strength to fight the allegations.