Feuding tech trade groups reach settlement over poaching


Mike Hettinger, took over as the new public sector leader at TechAmerica after the departure of three TechAmerica employees for a competing organization, which prompted a lawsuit. (Photo by Jeffrey MacMillan )

They're not saying much, but two tech industry trade groups have reached a settlement in a bitter six-month legal fight that erupted after one of them poached several employees from the other.

The drama started in November, when several lobbyists at TechAmerica, a trade association that represents hundreds of technology companies, defected to the rival Information Technology Industry Council. And it underscored the serious competition to represent the tech industry as it steps up its Washington game.

TechAmerica sued ITI and three former TechAmerica employees in D.C. Superior Court, charging that the defectors used confidential information about its members to try to lure clients to ITI. The suit got into some real corporate nitty-gritty, with TechAmerica alleging that one of its former employees made off with a spreadsheet with key details about its members, such as contacts and how much they paid in dues.

ITI and its new employees urged a judge to dismiss the case in late November, arguing that there was never an agreement that prohibited the ex-TechAmerica staff members from doing similar work for a competitor. The two sides were still sparring in front of a judge in February.

On Friday morning, each side issued a brief statement and declined requests to provide any more information.

This came from Shawn Osborne, president and chief executive of TechAmerica:

TechAmerica’s top priority is always the success of our members, and the larger U.S. technology industry, and all actions we take are to serve that goal, including the settlement between ITI and TechAmerica. This resolution is in the best interests of our members.

And from Dean Garfield, ITI president and chief executive:

ITI is committed to focusing on the vibrancy of the technology sector and the dynamic future that ICT innovation brings to consumers around the world. To ensure continued success in achieving this vision, ITI and TechAmerica have agreed to the resolution of pending litigation between them and have entered into a confidential agreement to resolve all claims, without any admission of wrongdoing.

One thing that made the suit remarkable was that just 18 months earlier, the two groups and a third, TechNet, were talking about a merger, which some companies thought would be a good way to boost the sector's Washington impact. Hard to see that happening now.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story suggested that the D.C. Superior Court had ruled on a motion to dismiss the case. The judge had not ruled on the motion. This story has been updated to reflect that.

 

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