a touch of controversy

Pay by Touch founder and CEO files for personal bankruptcy, facing a backlash from investors and employees.

Just two weeks ago, Convenience Store Decisions  reported that Shell Oil became the first gasoline retailer in the world to adopt Pay by Touch’s biometric payment technology at its pumps and inside convenience stores to add more convenience and security to customer transactions.

However, the project may be in doubt as Pay by Touch founder and CEO John Rogers was forced into personal bankruptcy stemming from several court battles on the East and West coasts that include an involuntary bankruptcy petition filed against the company by three employees.

For now, Karyn Leonardi-Cattolica, a spokesperson for Shell’s external affairs and issues management, told CSD ”the pilot at our 10 branded sites in Chicago is proceeding as planned.” The oil company declined to speculate on the project should Pay by Touch follow Rogers into Chapter 11.

Further fanning the flames, an investment firm claims the employees’ bankruptcy petition is a move by Rogers’ supporters to help him keep control of the 5-year-old San Francisco-based company, the San Francisco Business Times reported.

The fingerprint scanning company, regarded as a promising young retail technology firm, faces claims from four employees who say they are owed at least $60,000 in back wages. The employees filed a petition for involuntary bankruptcy against Solidus Networks, which does business as Pay by Touch, on Oct. 31, the same day Rogers filed for Chapter 11 protection, according to the report. Rogers and the company also face two recent lawsuits from former executives and allegations from a major investor that Rogers improperly fired independent board members.

While the legal disputes raise questions about Pay by Touch’s financial viability, spokesperson Shannon Riordan said it’s business as usual for the company. “We at Pay by Touch are completely confident that this is a temporary situation, that this soon will be behind us,” she told the Business Times. She also insisted that a recent report that Pay By Touch might sell assets and exit point-of-sale biometrics is “not true.”

Riordan also notes that Pay by Touch is not in bankruptcy despite the petition by three employees claiming they’re owed about $45,000 in back wages and other compensation. “We have 20 days to figure out how we are going to respond to this bankruptcy petition,” she told the Times.

Calls to Riordan were not returned by presstime.

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