Venture-backed online advertising company Yodle has filed suit against three former employees, one of which is an ex-manager of the company, alleging that the men ‘hacked’ into its computer systems and stole trade secrets and proprietary data, some of which was sensitive information about current and potential future customers.
Caveat: apparently the three ex-employees now all work for a company that rivals Yodle in the local online advertising space. New York City-based Yodle helps local businesses advertise online by publishing ads on search engines and driving leads to its custom-built client sites.
Former Yodle employees Daniel Mousetis, Christopher Esgro and Ronald Pousson, who once ran Yodle’s Philadelphia operations, allegedly helped competitor Local Internet Doctors to ‘hack’ Yodle’s systems and steal proprietary data, according to a complaint filed earlier this week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. LID was founded by Pousson together with his partner Frank Norris, who is the fourth defendant in the suit.
Since the ‘hacking’ involved using an old user name and password to gain access to the system, the alleged employment contract violations and data theft clearly weigh more.
Fired June 5, 2009, Pousson allegedly began soliciting other Yodle employees, saying he had found work at a Yodle competitor, WebVisible. In reality, Pousson had founded Local Internet Doctors along with Norris, according to the complaint, to compete with Yodle directly. Beyond soliciting Yodle’s employees, Pousson also allegedly gained unauthorized access to Yodle’s computer systems, the complaint adds.
With that access, Pousson allegedly downloaded as much confidential information as he could, including “competitively sensitive” data on Yodle’s current and prospective customers — names, contact information, monthly budgets and contract terms, according to the complaint.
The suit accuses all defendants of conversion, tortious interference with business and contractual relations and civil conspiracy. It also accuses Pousson, Mousetis and Esgro of breach of duty and loyalty, misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of implied contract and violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.