Marathon Says Ex-Employees Owe It $18.5 Million for Taking Databy
London investment firm says pair took data to new company
James Seddon, Luke Bridgeman say the documents were generic
Two former Marathon Asset Management LLP employees should pay the firm as much as 15 million pounds ($18.5 million) for downloading 40,000 computer files as they left to join a rival investment advisory firm, lawyers said at the start of a London trial.
James Seddon and Luke Bridgeman were aiming to "give themselves a leg-up" to gain a “competitive advantage” as they quit to work with Marathon co-founder Jeremy Hosking at his new venture Hosking Partners, Neil Kitchener, Marathon’s lawyer said in court Monday.
The trial should be the final chapter of an acrimonious period for Marathon and Hosking that began when he left with a team in 2012 to set up a new business. The fallout has resulted in arbitration payouts and settlements worth millions of pounds. In the current suit, Bridgeman said he regrets removing the documents but claims they were generic, and most were publicly available. Seddon said he never used any of the documents and he shouldn’t be a defendant in the suit.
"If there was a market for the information, the court would straightforwardly order damages in the amount of the market value," Marathon said in documents prepared for the trial. "The court must determine the objective value of the information."
Seddon admits that he placed 33 documents on a Marathon computer for Bridgeman in 2012, but denies any knowledge that his colleague took them along with thousands of other documents.
"Mr. Bridgman’s conduct in downloading very substantial amounts of Marathon’s information was very far from his finest hour," Stuart Ritchie, his lawyer, said in court documents. "He has paid a heavy price for his conduct.”
Marathon settled another claim against four former employees -- including Seddon and Bridgeman -- in September that accused them of a conspiracy to damage its business.
Marathon also settled a dispute with Jenny Buchanan, a former consultant who says she was owed substantial fees for marketing the fund’s products in South Africa. Marathon agreed to pay Buchanan 250,000 pounds to settle the suit, lawyers said in court documents.
The dispute follows Marathon’s successful attempt to claw back 10.4 million pounds in pay from Hosking after a judge ruled that profit-share awarded to members of a partnership could be treated as remuneration and can be forfeited if wrongdoing was proved.
Hosking had accepted wrongdoing, apologized and agreed to pay about 1.3 million pounds plus the bonus forfeiture.
The London-based asset manager has no connection to Marathon Asset Management LP, the $12.8 billion New York firm specializing in distressed debt.