Tampa Bay Fisheries’ CEO accused in trade secrets lawsuit

Published on
August 24, 2018

National Fish & Seafood is now accusing Tampa Bay Fisheries’ CEO Richard Paterson and other Tampa Bay executives with conspiring to steal trade secrets.

The new, amended complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, Massachusetts, also details phone messages and other evidence in the case alleging that Kathleen Scanlon, former head of research, development, and quality assurance for National Fish, stole trade secrets involving its proprietary clam production process.

National Fish named Scanlon, Tampa Bay Fisheries, and a “John Doe” in the original complaint, filed on 20 July.

In addition to Paterson, the new complaint accuses Mark Pandolfo, the current vice president of sales for Kitchens Seafood, an unregistered affiliate of Tampa Bay, and Mike Marsh, the director of information technology for Tampa Bay, of conspiring with Scanlon to steal trade secrets.

NFS, which markets the longstanding Matlaw’s stuffed clam and seafood line, said Scanlon’s action were “part of a scheme to harm NFS’ position in the seafood-supply industry,” according to the original complaint. Dover, Florida-based Tampa Bay Fisheries specializes in private label seafood for retailers and restaurants. Both suppliers recently tried to secure a national listing with Whole Foods Market, according to the complaint.

After working for NFS for 20 years, Scanlon voluntarily resigned on 11 July. She was set to begin working for Tampa Bay Fisheries on 23 July, but was ordered by a federal judge not to begin work there. NFS accused Scanlon of taking photos and videos of NFS’s clam production process, and forwarding NFS’ confidential and proprietary Ingredient List, QC documentations, and other NFS materials to her personal email account one day before she resigned.

When she resigned, Scanlon told NFS executives that she intended to help Tampa Bay compete with NFS for the business of Whole Foods Market and High Liner, two major customers of NFS.

“Scanlon stated that, while Tampa Bay did not currently operate a significant clam-based line of business, ‘it should be in a position to do so within a year’,” the amended complaint stated. “Scanlon further informed NFS that Tampa Bay had difficulty competing with NFS because of its less efficient clam production process.”

Based on a forensic examination of Scanlon’s former NFS iPhone and two USB drives, “NFS has uncovered a scheme by and among defendants to steal tens of thousands of NFS files containing confidential information and trade secrets for use by defendants,” the amended complaint stated.

Scanlon transferred proprietary files to a USB drive and, soon after, met with Paterson at Tampa Bay’s headquarters. Paterson and Scanlon discussed having Marsh “work on [Scanlon’s] computer” and provide technical assistance to Scanlon so she could transfer NFS documents and email files to the defendants, according to the complaint.

NFS is asking the court to grant civil seizure of the property that contains NFS’ trade secrets, a monetary award of three times NFS’s actual damages, and to “preliminary and permanently enjoin defendants from altering or expanding their stuffed-clam or stuffed-scallop seafood business, quality control processes, or any other business in a manner related to or implicating NFS’ confidential or trade secret information misappropriated by defendants,” the complaint stated.

NFS’s new complaint filing is in stark contrast to indications that the complaint would be settled out of court. All the parties involved are “making substantial progress on resolving this dispute,” according to a joint statement that NFS, Tampa Bay, and Scanlon submitted to the court on 30 July.

Contributing Editor

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