AlixPartners LLP, the turnaround firm whose consultants seek to revive bankrupt or foundering companies, sued two former partners for allegedly stealing confidential files when they left for rival McKinsey & Co.
The New York-based company contends the two former directors, Eric Thompson in its Hong Kong office and Ivo Naumann in Shanghai, misappropriated business forecasts, marketing materials and contact lists when they left to join McKinsey’s restructuring unit, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday in Delaware Chancery Court.
AlixPartners wants the consultants banned from competing with their former colleagues for a year and forced to hand over the allegedly purloined files.
Thompson and Naumann have been “unjustly enriched through the misappropriation of AlixPartners’ trade secrets,” including materials related to development of its business in Asia, the consulting firm said in its complaint.
The case pits AlixPartners, one of the best-known restructuring firms focusing on bankrupt companies, against McKinsey, one of the world’s most influential management consultants. AlixPartners advised General Motors Co. (GM:US) on its restructuring when the automaker filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009. It’s also working with computer-maker Dell Inc. on its turnaround after founder Michael Dell took the company private last year.
McKinsey, based in New York, has provided advisers to two-thirds of the companies on the Fortune 1000 list, according to the firm’s website. It has more than 100 offices worldwide. Among its clients are the Bank of England and Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC:US)
Yolande Daeninck, a McKinsey spokeswoman, declined to comment on the AlixPartners lawsuit. McKinsey wasn’t named as a defendant in the case.
AlixPartners officials said in the suit that Thompson and Naumann followed six colleagues who jumped from the bankruptcy consulting firm to McKinsey’s new restructuring unit.
By taking the files, Thompson and Naumann violated their employment agreements with AlixPartners, which included confidentiality pacts and non-compete provisions, the company said in court filings.
To get the files out of AlixPartners, Thompson and Naumann e-mailed them to relatives or to their own accounts, according to the suit.
After AlixPartners’ attorneys demanded the return of the documents, lawyers for Thompson, Naumann and McKinsey acknowledged the former consultants were “mobile senior executives” who were “in possession of AlixPartners information,” according to the suit.
AlixPartners also claimed in the suit that Dominic Barton, McKinsey’s chief executive officer, said he expected the pair “to honor their commitments.” Barton said he wasn’t involved in Thompson’s and Naumann’s recruiting, according to court papers.
The consulting firm wants a judge to order Thompson and Naumann to “return all hard copies of AlixPartners trade secrets and other confidential and proprietary information in their possession,” according to the complaint.
The case is AlixPartners LLP v. Thompson, CA No. 9523, Delaware Chancery Court (Wilmington).
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