MasterCard Claims Nike Plotted to Steal Cyber Talent

Nike Inc. was accused by a MasterCard Inc. unit of conspiring to steal scarce technology talent by encouraging two top cyber-security managers to break their contracts with the credit card company as worries of hacking and breaches of customer privacy deepen.

MasterCard International Inc., a unit of the payment card company, alleges in a complaint filed yesterday in federal court in White Plains, New York, that Nike “conspired” with ex-Chief Information Security Officer William Dennings and a former senior engineering manager when it urged them to quit their jobs and join the sports apparel company. Nike was accused of interfering in MasterCard’s contract with the workers, who were sued for breach-of-contract.

“Talent in this rapidly growing area is limited, in demand and not well-known,” Purchase, New York-based MasterCard International said in a complaint seeking $5 million and a ruling barring Nike from soliciting its employees.

Companies are confronting a talent shortage as they try to boost information security in wake of data breaches at retailers including Target Corp. and Home Depot Inc., MasterCard International said in its complaint. Job postings in the area have grown 74 percent from 2007 to 2013, according to a March 2014 report from Burning Glass Technologies.

“Nike has investigated the claims brought by MasterCard and we believe that our employees acted appropriately and the allegations are without merit,” KeJuan Wilkins, a spokesman for the Beaverton, Oregon-based company, said in an e-mailed statement.

According to the complaint, Dennings and the ex-engineering manager urged former colleagues at MasterCard to join them at Nike, in violation of their employment contracts.

The case is MasterCard International v. Nike, 15-cv-00114, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (White Plains).

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