Scottish architect accused in US court of not meeting $664,000 guarantee

Scottish architecture giant RMJM is being sued by its own employees in the US who claim they are owed $664,000 by the firm.

Court papers filed last month in New Jersey, US, allege that RMJM’s director Fraser Morrison and his chief executive son Peter have reneged on part of a deal to pay bonuses to the staff of US-based architect Hillier, which RMJM merged with in 2007.

The papers have been filed on behalf of a number of US-based principals at the firm, now called RMJM Inc., by the former owner of Hillier, Bob Hillier. They say RMJM still owes staff $664,000 of a $1.5m bonus pool agreed under the terms of the $24m merger.

RMJM says it is disappointed by the move as it intends to pay the cash “in the near future.”

However, the papers also allege that RMJM has asset-stripped the former Hillier, by “siphoning off corporate funds” worth up to $8m, allegations the architect has described as “outrageous and completely untrue.”

The allegations come at a difficult time for RMJM, which has lost a number of key staff in the last year and courted controversy by appointing the former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Fred Goodwin, as an adviser.

It was reported this week that Goodwin has stepped back from day-to-day work at RMJM, with the firm confirming they called on his services only as required, and that the current period was “less demanding.”

RMJM is currently the eighth largest architect in the world, according to Building’s sister publication Building Design.

Regarding the legal action, a spokesman for RMJM said: “We’re surprised and disappointed at this move. However, we fully expect the final $664,000 payment to be made in the near future and for the matter to be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

“Separately, the allegations of asset-stripping are both outrageous and completely and utterly untrue. In fact, the direct opposite has been the case as millions of dollars have been injected into the US business since the beginning of the recession.”

A version of this story first appeared here in Building Design.