CHICAGO - Allstate can continue its lawsuit against Ameriprise Financial Services for violating federal trade secrets protection law by allegedly recruiting Allstate's current and former financial specialists to use their knowledge to steal Allstate's customers.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo denied Ameriprise’s motions to dismiss Allstate's lawsuit or transfer venue.
“The conduct targeting Illinois bears a sufficiently 'intimate' relationship with plaintiffs’ claims to make an Illinois court’s exercise of jurisdiction 'reasonably foreseeable,'" Judge Bucklo wrote.
In its lawsuit, Northfield-based Allstate accused Ameriprise of violations of the Defend Trade Secrets Act, “tortious interference with business relationships and unfair competition,", claiming Ameriprise “unlawfully solicited Exclusive Financial Specialists (EFSs) with whom plaintiffs have (or had) relationships, and that it encouraged those EFSs to disclose plaintiffs' trade secrets and other confidential information to defendant, which defendant then used to steal plaintiffs' customers and otherwise compete with plaintiffs.”
Judge Elaine Bucklo fedbarchicago.org
Ameriprise moved for summary judgment, acknowledging that it attempted to recruit Allstate’s financial specialists, but denied that the recruitment was unlawful. Minneapolis-based Ameriprise said Allstate hasn’t proven that Ameriprise obtained any of Allstate’s trade secretes or other confidential information.
As an alternative to dismissal, Ameriprise suggested that the court should transfer the case's venue, arguing that only a “tiny percentage” of its employees are in Illinois and that its home base of Minnesota would be the proper venue.
Bucklo said in her ruling:“The evidence supports the conclusion that defendant directed recruitment efforts at Illinois EFSs that included the solicitation of confidential information, and plaintiffs' claims 'directly relate' to that conduct," which is sufficient to give Illinois specific jurisdiction.
The order said Ameriprise’s motion and documents “do not identify a single Minnesota witness it expects to call or the topics on which they will be examined," while Allstate has shown that it has multiple Illinois-based employees that it plans to call as witnesses. Regardless, the court said "the jurisdictional evidence shows that this forum has some connection to plaintiffs' claims. Accordingly, plaintiffs' choice of forum is entitled to deference.”
Ameriprise is represented by attorneys Lauren F. Catlin and John F. Grady of Grady Bell LLP, of Chicago; and Lillian T. Dobson, Edward B. Magarian and John T. Sullivan, of Dorsey & Whitney LLP, of Minneapolis.
Allstate is represented by attorneys J. Scott Humphrey, Kevin J. Mahoney, Robyn Elizabeth Marsh and Kristine M. Rinella-Argentine, of Seyfarth Shaw LLP, of Chicago.