Porter Novelli sues former employees Million and Hernandez

TRAVIS COUNTY, TX: Porter Novelli has sued two former employees who left the agency to start the their own firm, taking one of Porter Novelli's clients with them.

TRAVIS COUNTY, TX: Porter Novelli has sued two former employees who left the agency to start the their own firm, taking one of Porter Novelli's clients with them.

Porter Novelli is accusing account manager Starr Million and account supervisor Kari Hernandez of developing their agency on company time and using company resources, as well as "soliciting" at least one client and Porter Novelli employees to go with them to the new agency, according to the complaint. Million and Hernandez left Porter Novelli's Austin, TX office in mid-January to launch Ink PR. The Bluetooth Special Interest Group, a trade association that promotes wireless technology, left Porter Novelli as its US agency of record because the organization had a clause in its contract allowing it to part ways with Porter Novelli if there was a significant change to the account team. Million and Hernandez were the account leads. Bluetooth took its US PR business to Ink to ensure consistency. Porter Novelli is seeking "injunctive relief" as well as damages of more than $50,000, representing pay earned by Million and Hernandez during the time at Porter Novelli they allegedly engaged in their "disloyal conduct," as well as other fees. Porter Novelli asserts the actions of Million and Hernandez was a detriment to Porter Novelli because the planning was done on company time with company resources to develop a business that would ultimately compete with Porter Novelli. The lawsuit points to the efforts to lure Porter Novelli employees and clients away to the new agency. "We just received the complaint from Porter Novelli and are currently working with our legal team to respond to the allegations," said Million. "Ink is a small boutique PR agency with no desire to compete with the seventh-largest PR firm in the world." Porter Novelli could not be reached for comment Friday morning. The suit contains several "exhibits" of substantiating evidence, including employment-offer letters sent to Million and Hernandez in 2000, Porter Novelli's code of professional standards, Ink's mission statement and the pros and cons for launching the boutique firm that Million and Hernandez allegedly worked on during company time, and a list of defendants' strengths and weaknesses Million and Hernandez created during the planning of Ink. On the list of pros and cons for starting their own agency, Million and Hernandez list "potential lawsuit and potential enemies" as one possible downside.

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