We talk a lot about “reading the fine print.”

The disclosures that scroll across the bottom of TV ads. Multi-page bank privacy statements. Multi-screen end-user agreements. All those documents you sign when you buy a house or refinance a mortgage–or start a new job.

The problem with “the fine print” is it’s not fine. It’s jargon. Legalese. References to more legalese.

Skype employees thought they knew what was in the fine print. The stock options that vest. Only they didn’t:

Normally options give employees the right to buy shares at the price on the grant date, once they have worked at the company for a time… [But] it turns out the investor group, led by private equity firm Silver Lake Partners that bought Skype from EBay in 2009, had secured a so-called repurchase right that gave them authority to buy back the shares at the grant price…

 

The only mention that the company had the right to buy if [an employee] left in less than five years came in a single sentence toward the end of the document that referred him to yet another document.

 

Make sure your business has clear terms, not fine print.

Photo by Kevin Spencer (Flickr).