As we referenced earlier in the week, two Merrill Lynch executives received several million dollars in exchange for executing a release and one year non-compete with Merrill following their departure. Merrill was effectively able to take them off the market in exchange for a multimillion dollar payment.
A post-employment non-compete is generally signed at the outset of the employment relationship, not at the time that the employee is walking out the door. Would a non-compete, signed at the end of the employment relationship be enforceable in Texas? The answer is that it is unlikely.
In the state of Texas, generally the non-compete or non-solicitation agreement signed at the point of employee departure generally is not enforceable because there is no consideration. Certainly, there is an open question in light of the Marsh case where the consideration of some money or stock option paid at the time of departure.
Another alternative is to tie payments to continued non-competition or non-solicitation. Put another way, Employee X will continue to receive their monthly, or bi-weekly payments as long as they don’t compete. The agreement may not be enforceable, but the former employee won’t compete because they want to get paid.
The better practice remains to have the employee execute the non-compete or non-solicit at the time employment begins. There remains too much uncertainty as to whether a non-compete signed at the end of the employment relationship is enforceable under Texas law.