UnitedHealth Group’s Optum IT-based health services unit has sued former VP David Smith, claiming that he misappropriated trade secrets before leaving to join a new healthcare venture supported by Amazon.
Smith’s lawyers are seeking to move the case to arbitration.
The complaint, filed Jan. 16 in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, accuses Smith of printing out a confidential Optum in-depth healthcare market analysis just a minute before printing out his resume. It was the same day that he spoke with the healthcare innovation venture nicknamed ABC, now led by Dr. Atul Gawande and supported by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan Chase.
Smith, who went from being VP of corporate strategy to being VP of product during 18 months at Optum, also sought confidential information from colleagues that was not related to his job duties, according to the lawsuit complaint.
Smith resigned Optum last month to join ABC as director of product strategy and research. Just a day before he told Optum that he planned to resign, he printed out a highly confidential document including product portfolio performance, new product development and a product job family and assessment plan, the complaint said.
“If Smith is permitted to work for ABC, he will inevitably use Optum’s trade secrets to expedite ABC’s development of competitive capabilities and products. Even if those products take more than a year to commercialize, Smith’s assistance in the process of beginning to develop them now is a direct competitive harm to Optum,” Optum’s lawyers said in the complaint.
Optum is seeking an injunction to prevent Smith from working for ABC or divulging trade secrets, as well as damages.
Smith’s lawyers in their own filing argue that the dispute falls under Optum’s employment arbitration policy, so the case should be handled through arbitration, not a lawsuit trial.
Said Smith’s lawyers: “There is no reason for this case to be in court.”
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