Custom-Publishing Exec Ordered to Pay $4.6M for Business Violations

GREENVILLE, SC—Nov. 21, 2012—A federal judge ordered a local businessman and his company to pay more than $4.6 million in damages and costs for misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of fiduciary duty, and other misconduct related to the sale of his former Greenville employer in 2008.

The order against J. Adam Shirley and his company, Prism Content Solutions, stems from the sale of the assets of Cox CustomMedia, a publishing company that had employed him as a senior sales executive. Shortly after the sale, Shirley abruptly resigned from CustomMedia to form a competing company and was accused by Cox’ acquirer, Uhlig LLC, of taking trade secrets, customer lists, thousands of computer files and other CustomMedia intellectual property in breach of his employment agreement and South Carolina law.

Uhlig welcomed the damage award, emphasizing the critical value of intellectual property and electronic data in the Internet era. It also expressed hope that the size of the award, which includes punitive damages, would help deter misconduct in similar cases.

“We believe it is essential for the courts to recognize the seriousness of trade-secret misappropriation, regardless of the form it takes,” the company said in a statement. “The theft of critical business information in electronic form is often difficult to prove, but in economic terms it can be far more damaging and dangerous than the theft of physical property. Decades of work and millions of dollars in value can be stolen using digital devices no bigger than a pack of gum.”

This order, by U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs, follows a jury trial late last year in U.S. District Court in Greenville. After hearing nearly three weeks of evidence, the 10-person jury returned a verdict in favor of Uhlig on all claims and awarded damages for misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of employment agreement, tortious interference with an employment agreement, breach of fiduciary duty and duty of loyalty, aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty and/or a duty of loyalty and tortious interference with prospective contractual relationships.