Jamie Dimon’s son-in-law may not get off as easily as he hoped in an arbitration case filed against him and the giant buyout firm Apollo Global Management over claims they bilked an oil executive out of $21 million, The Post has learned.
Joey Romeo, who married the JPMorgan boss’s daughter Julia Dimon in 2011, is expected to be deposed in the coming weeks, sources said — after his employer Apollo initially chalked up the suit to a “disgruntled” employee who was “fired for cause.”
The case was lodged in January with the American Arbitration Association in Pennsylvania by Varun Mishra, who alleged that Romeo and Apollo orchestrated a scheme to stiff him out of his stake in a lucrative oil company he built.
After tapping Mishra’s expertise on natural gas and petroleum to build an energy business, Romeo and other Apollo executives allegedly pushed him out as CEO — a coup that came shortly after Mishra raised questions about millions of dollars that Romeo had ordered be charged to the company’s expense accounts, according to the initial AAA filing.
Apollo had been dismissive of Mishra when he filed suit in January. A company spokesman noted the 41-year-old Indian immigrant had engaged six different sets of lawyers and filed a previous arbitration demand, “which he voluntarily withdrew.”
However, eight months later, the case is going through discovery and Romeo now looks like he will have to sit for a rarely done inquisition.
“Depositions are not typical in arbitration,” said Jay Auslander, a lawyer who represents clients in AAA but is not involved in this case. “Arbitrators may permit [depositions] for a whole host of rules. The parties may agree to them; the facts may be within the unique knowledge of specific witnesses; there may be a concern that witnesses may not be available for the final hearing; and the like.”
Auslander noted: “I would not read anything nefarious or ominous into this at all.”
According to Mishra’s claim, Apollo executives approached him in 2015 to offer at least $400 million to build out a business that would eventually become American Petroleum Partners. Under the agreement, Mishra would contribute Pennsylvania wells he’d amassed and serve as CEO on an H1-B visa while Apollo would provide the capital for expansion.
But the next year, Apollo and Romeo pulled the rug out from Mishra, axing a deal for APP to acquire a major natural gas fracking company for $360 million — only to turn around and scoop up the company through another firm in which some Apollo principals were “likely direct or indirect beneficiaries,” according to arbitration papers.
Despite allegedly getting shortchanged by Apollo on the fracking deal, Mishra had already committed his wells to the APP venture, according to the complaint.
By that time, Mishra alleged in his lawsuit, he noticed Romeo had been approving expenses for Apollo executives’ limousines and other high-end travel to be paid for out of American Petroleum. According to Mishra’s suit, Romeo was siphoning “multiple millions of dollars” out of Mishra’s business to pad the accounts of Apollo and its affiliates.
“Mr. Mishra’s claims are entirely baseless; he is a disgruntled former employee of a fund portfolio company, who was terminated for cause. We will continue to defend the firm and our employees vigorously,” an Apollo spokesperson told The Post on Tuesday.
MIshra had also painted the Princeton-educated Romeo as being snooty and sarcastic as their business relationship steadily went south.
“Joseph Romeo can be described as a person who constantly belittles you,” Mishra had told The Post in a written statement. “Without knowing me — or my immigration history — he commented on me that ‘Isn’t it too easy for you all to make money?’”
Romeo did not return a call seeking comment.
Romeo, now in his late 30s, owns a $7 million, 3,825-square-foot unit in a Park Avenue luxury tower that is located two floors below his powerful father-in-law. The spread is the former home of iconic furniture designer Vladimir Kagan, property records show.
Mishra told The Post he withdrew a previous arbitration claim because he believed it gave him a better chance to settle with Apollo. After that settlement fell apart, Mishra said he filed the current one.
Labor employment expert Frank Botta is arbitrating the case.
Botta, also a Major League baseball players agent who represented former Chicago Cubs All-Star Catcher Geovany Soto, declined comment when reached but confirmed it was his case.