Anheuser-Busch sues ex-manager, claims he divulged trade secrets

James Clark urges judge to dismiss the suit, says company is punishing his whistleblowing

A former Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB) manager says the company is punishing him with a lawsuit for going public with its misdeeds.

A little more than a month ago, two consumers filed a proposed class action in California against AB, the world’s largest brewer, claiming it waters down some of its beer brands in order to boost profits. The plaintiffs’ attorney said his clients’ claims came from former “high-level” AB employees. Since the first suit, at least seven more have been filed.

Just one week after the suit, AB struck back. It sued James Clark, former director of operations support, for allegedly misappropriating trade secrets. Clark worked at AB from 1998 until June 2012, when he resigned to become a lawyer.

“We believe Clark improperly used and misrepresented our confidential information to instigate these lawsuits, all for his personal gain,” Peter Kraemer, AB’s vice president of brewing and supply, said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg.

But Clark is fighting the charges. He is urging a judge to dismiss AB’s suit, saying the company is trying to punish his whistleblowing. From 2008 to 2012, Clark complained to about 20 senior managers about the company’s practices regarding alcohol content. He became involved in the consumer litigation shortly after he left AB. He also denies all claims that he disclosed trade secrets.

AB’s suit “is designed to silence Mr. Clark and to punish him for standing up for consumers,” Clark’s attorney Robert Carichoff said in a March 29 filing. “To allow AB to proceed with this vindictive litigation would empower all employers to punish former employees like Mr. Clark for reporting misconduct and for speaking out on behalf of consumers.”

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