Pollard PLLC has been retained to defend yet another David vs. Goliath non-compete and trade secret case, this time in a dispute involving GEO Group — one of the nation’s largest for-profit prison operators. GEO Group, formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, has a history of litigation, usually as the defendant. But this time, GEO is the plaintiff alleging unfair competition against a former top-level employee and industry rival.
GEO Group acquired Correctional Services Corporation in 2005, and then Cornell Companies in 2009. In 2011, GEO Group acquired a subsidiary, BI, which is a provider of monitoring and supervision services for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”). On July 14, 2016, GEO Group filed a lawsuit in Palm Beach County Circuit Court against Matthew Swando, a former Vice-President of its BI division. Swando started at GEO Group as a Regional Manager for BI, then rose up the ranks to become the Vice-President of Sales and then Divisional Vice-President-the highest position in BI. On October 30, 2015, Swando entered into an agreement with GEO Group to work as an independent consultant. In June 2016, Swando resigned from GEO Group to work for a competitor, Numerex. Geo claims that Swando breached a covenant not to compete by joining its Numerex.
On August 31, 2016, the case was removed to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, West Palm Beach Division based on diversity. There was no question as to the dollar amount in controversy: Geo alleges that Swando is a threat to its confidential information and trade secrets. In its public filings, GEO has alleged that its intellectual property is worth over $615 million dollars. Following removal, Geo sought a preliminary injunction in Florida Federal Court. Simaltaneously, Geo filed a separate lawsuit against both Swando and Numerex in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. The Colorado action alleges misappropriation of trade secrets against both defendants.
The Florida Federal Court has placed the case on something of a rocket docket, setting a preliminary injunction hearing for October 14th, prior to the completion of any discovery. Pollard represents Swando in both the Florida and Colorado actions. On the flip side, mega firm Littler represents Geo in both cases.
In their pleadings, Defendant alleges that Geo has no legitimate business interest in that there is no confidential information at issue and that any customer relationships – with government entities – are not protectable. If successful, it will not be the first time that Pollard and his team have defeated an ugly non-compete case for lack of a legitimate business interest and lack of protectable customer relationships. See IDMWORKS, LLC v. Pophaly, 2016 WL 3566867 (S.D. Fla. June 23, 2016); Evans v. Generic Solution Engineering, 178 So. 3d 114 (Fla. 5TH DCA 2015) (vacating and remanding injunction for lack of legitimate business interest and no protectable customer relationships). See also Moon v. Medical Technology Associates, 577 F. App’x 934 (11th Cir. 2014) (vacating and remanding injunction and ordering district court to consider application of Shields on remand re non-competes in the context of competitive bidding).
Jonathan Pollard focuses his practice on defending non-compete and trade secret claims. In addition, he has significant experience prosecuting and defending a variety of unfair competition claims under the antitrust and trademark laws. Jonathan is routinely quoted in local and national media, most recently in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and FundFire and PBS NewsHour. His office can be reached at 954-332-2380. He calls everyone back.