New Hampshire’s high court has upheld a lower court civil award against an Auburn company for stealing trade secrets in the energy sector.
A jury awarded Freedom Energy Logistics of Auburn, N.H. more than $800,000 in damages and attorneys fees two years ago; the New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld that decision last week.
August Fromuth, Freedom’s founder and managing director, said Friday: “We are very fortunate that these really deplorable deeds were uncovered and that these people are being punished. This sort of thing goes on, obviously, elsewhere and people don’t get punished for it, but in this case they did. We’re happy that happened.”
The initial unanimous jury verdict in the civil lawsuit and the Superior Court judge’s subsequent ruling was handed down in May 2016. The two-week trial in Rockingham County Superior Court found owners Emile Clavet, Kevin Dean and their three energy supply and brokerage firms — Provider Power, ENH Power and Electricity Maine — guilty.
According to the lawsuit, Provider Power hired a Freedom Energy Logistics employee to work for them in 2013, while remaining employed with Freedom. Clavit and Dean coached the employee to obtain sensitive customer and pricing information from Freedom, then hand over that information to Provider Power to use for their own business means.
Freedom filed suit in 2014 after the employee’s ruse was inadvertently revealed to Freedom by an unwitting customer, Fromuth said.
“That tipped us off that something was going on,” he said.
Freedom filed suit against that employee, eventually settling the case. In a settlement agreement, the employee revealed Electricity Maine’s ploy aimed at getting him to divulge confidential customer lists, sales leads and other proprietary information he had been coached to obtain from Freedom, according to Fromuth.
The Superior Court jury had awarded Freedom $550,000 in damages, plus attorneys fees.
Electricity Maine was sold last year to a Texas company.
Freedom Energy Logistics is a boutique energy management firm based in Auburn, N.H., that specializes in unique methods of electricity and natural gas supply purchasing.
Efforts to reach Dean and the attorney representing Electricity Maine were unsuccessful.