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Ex-Rubicon employees hit back at High Liner subsidiary, deny poaching Kroger

High Liner stated it had paid over one $100 million (€88.3 million) to acquire the trade secrets it has accused Haven Foods of stealing.

Former employees for High Liner shrimp subsidiary Rubicon are denying allegations they stole trade secrets related to the US shrimp market and "poached" significant business from Rubicon’s key customer, Kroger, in order to create Haven Foods.

In a complaint filed Tuesday with the US District Court Central District of California Western Division, lawyers for ex-Rubicon employees Nicholas Leonard and Justin Kirby said all of High Liner's allegations were untrue apart from the two men being former employees with the company.

High Liner's Rubicon burden is a heavy one

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High Liner alleges Leonard and Kirby worked with colleague Lucas Biging to poach US retailer Kroger starting in October of 2018 when Kirby scheduled a meeting with Kroger's seafood merchandising team in Ohio.

"Haven Foods was awarded a portion of the Kroger shrimp business in the Request for Proposal," the company said. "Haven Foods denies that Leonard, Kirby or Biging engaged in any unlawful conduct with respect to High Liner/Rubicon and/or High Liner/Rubicon's prior relationship with Kroger."

In a complaint filed in June with the US District Court Central District of California Western Division, High Liner alleged the men "developed detailed knowledge of Rubicon’s internal strategies, pricing, marketing, procurement processes and sales" that included Rubicon's "sustainable supply chain network in Thailand and elsewhere in Asia."

"Haven Foods successfully used Rubicon’s trade secrets to poach significant business from Rubicon’s key customer, The Kroger Co," the filing stated.

Haven Foods said Rubicon's "purported trade secrets, if any, were readily ascertainable by proper means at the time of the alleged acquisition, use, and/or disclosure."

The company also said Rubicon's "purported trade secrets, if any, did not derive independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to the public or others who can obtain economic value from their use or disclosure."

Haven Foods does not have a website, but Leonard and Kirby list themselves as co-founders of the company on LinkedIn. In the filing Haven Foods described itself as a Nevada limited liability company with its principal place of business in Los Angeles, California, and that it is in the frozen shrimp business.

Leonard and Kirby have asked the court to dismiss the complaint and award to Haven Foods its costs and expenses incurred in defending itself.

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