“Buyers Remorse” Doesn’t Count

A federal employee had second thoughts about the settlement agreement he signed. “Buyer’s remorse” doesn’t count though.

The Merit Systems Protection Board and now the federal appeals court have rebuffed attempts by an employee to rescind an agreement he “begrudgingly” signed. (Powell, Jr. v. Department of Justice, C.A.F.C. No. 06-3125 (non precedent), 7/12/06)

The court’s opinion is short (2 pages) so the facts are in short supply. Essentially, Mr. Powell signed a settlement agreement with his agency, the Board approved it and entered it into the record. Three days later, Powell, apparently feeling buyer’s remorse, asked the Board to undo its approval of the agreement. The Board took this as a request for reconsideration and denied it since no grounds were presented by Powell to support the request.

The court made short work of affirming the Board’s decision: “The record demonstrates that Powell understood the terms of the agreement and voluntarily, even if begrudgingly, entered into it. As such, his argument that he was coerced into settling is without merit….” (Opinion, p. 2)

It’s an old saw in the legal community that the ideal settlement is one that neither party is completely happy with. The fact that the appellant was not entirely thrilled with the agreement is not enough to go in a few days later and simply have it tossed out. Once it’s been explained and apparently understood, then signed, then read into the MSPB record, the deed is done.

About the Author

Susan McGuire Smith spent most of her federal legal career with NASA, serving as Chief Counsel at Marshall Space Flight Center for 14 years. Her expertise is in government contracts, ethics, and personnel law.