Fired Motorola ( MOT) CFO Paul Liska didn't cook the books, and he also didn't countersue for wrongful termination, according to an analyst. The fallout continues for Liska, who was fired for cause last month, according to the company's proxy filing Tuesday. Investors would naturally be concerned about the sudden, surprising replacement of a finance chief, but JPMorgan analyst Ehud Gelblum says Motorola should be okay. Liska's removal "should not be viewed as having negative implication for Motorola's financial or operational practices," Gelblum wrote in a research note Thursday. Motorola is in a desperate fight to turn its business around after demand for its phones dried up and new models failed to catch on with consumers. Under new handset chief Sanjay Jha, the company has now refocused on smartphones powered by Google's ( GOOG) Android operating system. Among the four conditions that could get a Motorola executive fired are "willful and continued failure to substantially perform duties," according to the filing. Gelblum points to this condition as the likely category that Liska's termination fell into. It is just broadly enough defined to fit a for-cause case, wrote Gelblum. Liska is being forced to forfeit his $400,000 signing bonus and all his stock options and awards. A story in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday said Lista was fighting his termination and reported he'd filed a wrongful termination suit against Motorola, citing a person familiar with the matter. The Journal added that it found no independent verification that a suit was filed, however. And now, JPMorgan says its own search of the courts also found no records of a lawsuit filed by Liska against Motorola. This doesn't rule out any future lawsuit move by Liska, of course.
Motorola representatives were unavailable for comment, and the press office could not provide any contact information for Liska. Liska was hired a year ago to help Motorola with its mobile phone spinoff. Prior to Motorola he was a partner with several private equity shops including: MidOcean Partners, CVC Capital Holdings and Ripplewood Holdings. He also served as Sears CFO in 2001 and later ran the company's credit-card operation. It seems, by JPMorgan's assessment, that Liska's termination was probably based more on poor performance and not fraud. To investors fearing a fleecing, this passes as good news, given the rash of unsavory business headlines lately.