The explosive lawsuit between Biglaw firm Proskauer and its former Chief Operating Officer, Jonathan O’Brien, has reached a new level of acrimony with the latest court filing. You’ll recall, the firm alleges the now-former COO downloaded 34 gigabytes of internal data to a USB drive before announcing he was leaving the firm. (The firm fired O’Brien the same day they filed the Southern District of New York complaint.) The complaint also alleges O’Brien attempted to delete emails subject to a litigation hold.
In the defendant’s filing he told the court he only downloaded the information necessary to do his job as he traveled abroad at year end, “Mr. O’Brien did precisely what any COO traveling abroad at year end would have done; he took steps to ensure that he had the information he would need to do his job, and nothing more.”
Further, as reported by Reuters, O’Brien accuses the firm of using the lawsuit to stem a tide of recent departures:
The real motivation behind Proskauer’s lawsuit is to intimidate and dissuade other employees from leaving the firm after a spate of recent partner and business-side departures, O’Brien alleged, accusing the firm of “Machiavellian management.”
O’Brien had reportedly turned in his notice at Proskauer to pursue an opportunity at rival Paul Hastings. However, that offer appears to be rescinded after the allegations in the complaint became public.
O’Brien told the court he is considering filing counterclaims “against both Proskauer and the individuals at Proskauer in their personal capacity who are driving this vindictive litigation,” which he said has left him “unemployed for the foreseeable future.”
“Proskauer has improperly used the judicial system as a sledgehammer to destroy Mr. O’Brien’s career and reputation,” he said.
The firm provided the following statement on the filing:
“Mr. O’Brien’s narrative ignores the evidence which will demonstrate that his statements are false and that he engaged in a malicious conspiracy to steal trade secrets,” the firm said.
This case will certainly be fascinating to watch.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter @Kathryn1 or Mastodon @[email protected].