Brown and Root Industrial Services, a Bernhard Capital company, continues to pursue two lawsuits against CSRS subsidiary Fides Consulting, alleging theft of trade secrets.
BRIS filed suit last March in 19th Judicial District Court against Anthony Farris, BRIS’s former CEO; Kevin Steed, former engineering division president; and Fides, which CSRS formed in late 2020. The company subsequently filed a similar suit in federal court.
BRIS initially sued Farris and Steed for allegedly violating contracts by recruiting other BRIS employees when they left to join the new firm.
“We discovered that, not only did they leave, they left and took hundreds of thousands of documents with them when they left,” attorney Christine Keenan says. “Many of those documents are proprietary, trade secret documents.”
Those former employees were free to work elsewhere, but they weren’t allowed to take documents that BRIS argues would give Fides a head start in the marketplace, Keenan says. The federal suit has a different set of defendants and a few different claims, but the underlying facts are similar.
The state court is moving faster than the federal court, though a trial date has not been set. The defendants have asked to dismiss the federal suit, since the state action was filed first.
Attorney Preston Castille, who represents the defendants, says BRIS employees left to join Fides and other firms because they were unhappy where they were.
“We were not soliciting,” Castille says. “It’s not our fault that those employees wanted to leave.”
As for the documents, Castille says they were files the former employees worked on that “weren’t of any consequence” and that they were happy to return.
“Their position is, ‘You’re working for the company, therefore it all belongs to the company,’” he says. “Our guys said, ‘We disagree, but if you want them back, fine.’”