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Motorola changes tune on CFO dismissal

Company characterizes the termination of its former chief financial officer as "for cause," marking a shift from its earlier stance, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Struggling handset maker Motorola now characterizes the dismissal of its chief financial officer as "for cause," marking a shift from its initial explanation last month, according to a report Thursday in The Wall Street Journal.

In the company's quarterly financial report early last month, Motorola announced that CFO Paul Liska would be immediately replaced and noted its decision stemmed from postponing the spin-off of its cell phone unit, according to the Journal.

Liska, who was hired by Motorola last year, had previously worked at private equity firms, where he was tasked with running troubled companies and turning them around.

In announcing Liska's departure on February 3, Motorola CEO Greg Brown touted Liska's efforts:

We appreciate the contributions Paul made toward the Company's planned separation and in managing our cost-reduction activities.

But two weeks later, on February 19, Motorola made a decision to fire Liska "for cause," according to the company's Securities and Exchange Commission filing earlier this week.

In this week's SEC filing, Motorola noted it paid Liska a $400,000 sign-on bonus in two installments during 2008, but because his termination was "for cause," the company was seeking a repayment for the full amount.

A day after Motorola made its decision to fire Liska "for cause," the former executive filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in Illinois, according to a source cited in the Journal.

Motorola declined to comment, and Liska did not return phone calls to his home.

However, in a statement to the Journal, Liska said he was fired on January 29, following a board meeting, and that for the next three weeks he and his attorney were told by the company the firing was "without cause."

Motorola's fourth-quarter results showed a revenue decline of 26 percent year over year and a $3.6 billion net loss.