Motorola accuses ex-CFO of destroying case evidence

NEW YORK, April 15 (Reuters) - Motorola Inc MOT.N accused its former chief financial officer, Paul Liska, of destroying evidence needed for a whistleblower case he brought against the company after he was fired.

Motorola asked the Cook Country Circuit Court in Illinois to sanction its former CFO for “willful spoliation of relevant, material evidence” for the case in a document filed on Wednesday. The court is due to hear Motorola’s request for sanctions on April 29.

Liska’s lawyer, Sean Crotty of Coleman Law Firm, was not immediately available for comment.

The cellphone maker said Liska left the company on Jan. 29 with his Motorola laptop computer and that by the time he returned it on Feb. 17 the device was “virtually devoid of any usable data related to the case.

Motorola said its forensic experts found that a data destruction program was run on the laptop on Jan. 30 and Feb. 12 destroying user created data on the computer.

The company, which has been struggling to revamp its cellphone business, said Liska “destroyed the primary source of data regarding his activities” between the time he took the CFO job in March 2008 and his departure at the end of January.

Liska had said in his complaint that he believed he was fired for warning the company that its 2009 business plan for its mobile devices unit was based on “unsubstantiated and misleading financial forecasts.”

But Motorola said it fired the executive because of “serious performance issues,” accusing him of everything from being unable to answer questions about the company’s cash position and failing to attend meetings he had called.

Liska had said in his complaint that the mobile unit’s lack of a 2009 business plan “was likely to lead to the continued deterioration of Motorola’s credit and ... to the possible ruin of the entire company.”

Motorola asked the court to order Liska to immediately turn over all of his computers and electronic storage to Motorola for forensic review at the company’s expense. It also asked for a hearing to “determine the extent of Mr. Liska’s spoliation of evidence and whether he improperly acquired evidence.”

Motorola shares rose 4.5 percent to $4.89 on the New York Stock Exchange early Wednesday afternoon. (Reporting by Sinead Carew in New York and Andrew Stern In Chicago; Editing by Richard Chang)