Another saga fit for a television series plot line is playing out in a Texas courthouse. Private investment firm TPG Global, LLC (“TPG”) is based in Fort Worth, Texas. Until the last day of 2014, Adam Levine (“Levine”) was an employee of TPG. Levine was previously a White House deputy press secretary during George W. Bush’s presidency. TPG filed a lawsuit in late January 2015 claiming that Levine attempted to extort millions of dollars from TPG after Levine learned that TPG would not make Levine a partner in the firm.
TPG alleges that Levine made an escalating series of threats against TPG, including that Levine would disclose TPG trade secrets to the media and that he would seek to plant damaging stories in the press. TPG claims that Levine threated to destroy TPG and to “‘take down’ TPG the same way that he took down Scooter Libby.” That is supposed to be a reference to Levine’s role in testifying before the grand jury in I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s criminal prosecution. According to TPG, Levine told TPG that he is a “weapon of mass destruction.”
TPG also alleges that Levine entered TPG’s office on Christmas Eve and Christmas day to download TPG computer files and access TPG documents. TPG states that Levine altered a TPG email and disclosed that email and others to the New York Times. TPG states that it believes Levine disclosed confidential TPG information to other media outlets as well.
Last week, TPG filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent further disclosure of its alleged trade secrets and to require Levine to return TPG documents and property.
Although Levine has not yet made an appearance in the lawsuit, Bloomberg quotes his spokesperson as characterizing TPG’s lawsuit as “a blatant and shameful attempt to discredit a whistleblower” as “Mr. Levine was dismissed because he had alerted TPG senior management to serious issues of non-compliance and defrauding its investors of millions of dollars in fees and expenses.”
It is too early to tell which side is telling the truth in this dispute. Nevertheless, this lawsuit illustrates a potential nightmare scenario for a business – a disgruntled employee with access to trade secrets deciding to publicly disclose the trade secrets. I recently wrote a post about this very subject and gave a few suggestions for steps a business can take when faced with this problem. You can read that post here.
You can also read TPG’s amended complaint in its lawsuit here.