Washington Group trial due to go into mediation

WASHINGTON: A lawsuit filed last fall by Ketchum-owned lobbying firm The Washington Group against a former SVP for allegedly stealing clients will go to mediation May 1.

WASHINGTON: A lawsuit filed last fall by Ketchum-owned lobbying firm The Washington Group against a former SVP for allegedly stealing clients is due to go into mediation May 1.

The Washington Group, which seeks more than half a million dollars in damages, alleges that Harry Sporidis, who left the firm last year to join the law firm Powell Goldstein, breached a non-compete agreement that was established electronically when Sporidis accepted stock options online from Omnicom, Ketchum's parent company.

Sporidis counters the accusation by stating that not only did he never agree to a non-compete agreement when he first joined Washington Group, he also never agreed to one during the process of receiving Omnicom stock options. Both Ketchum and Sporidis' attorney, Alan Strasser, declined to comment, while Washington Group's attorney, Elizabeth Lalik, did not respond to a request for comment.

The former clients of Washington Group involved in the case are the Society for Human Resources Management, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), and Mentor. ASCO and Mentor were also Ketchum public affairs clients.

The clients' contracts, which were submitted as evidence in the case, state that the clients can terminate work with Washington Group if the firm fails to offer alternative representation they deem acceptable.

Sporidis' departure from the lobbying firm was initially amicable. Susan Molinari, who oversees Washington Group and Ketchum Public Affairs, said in a deposition that when informed by Sporidis of his new job, she told him that "If he thought this was a better fit for him, I thought I was happy for him."

Speaking on background, a DC-based public affairs executive and lobbyist from a competing agency said the lawsuit was an unusual case because lobbyists typically don't sign non-compete agreements, particularly electronically after joining a firm.

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