Verizon sues former Alltel exec over trade secrets

Verizon Wireless filed a lawsuit against a former Alltel executive who has since joined Allied Wireless, a new company that will run some of the former properties and assets Verizon divested as part of its $28.1 billion purchase of Alltel. Verizon claims that the executive, Lewis Langston III, could use or distribute confidential, proprietary trade secret information about Verizon.

Atlantic-Tele Network, which agreed to pay Verizon $200 million to acquire the divested wireless spectrum licenses and network assets, recently formed Allied as a subsidiary company. ATN said Allied would be headquartered in Little Rock, Ark. (where Alltel's headquarters were located), and would hire former Alltel workers who had been laid off after Verizon's purchase.

Langston, who was formerly executive vice president of process development and support at Alltel, resigned from Verizon in November and became the CIO of Allied. Before that, he was vice president of transition planning at Verizon, presumably working on the Alltel integration. Verizon is accusing Langston of violating the Arkansas Trade Secrets Act. Langston, in turn, said Verizon did not disclose the proprietary information that he has that could potentially harm Verizon, and that he has a right to know what it is, according to the the AP.

A Verizon spokeswoman, Robin Nicol, told FierceWireless that Verizon has no intention of stopping Allied from hiring former Alltel employees in general, that the carrier has been working with Allied to balance the company's need for Verizon to provide transition services with Allied's desire to hire employees for new operations. 

"The legal action we have taken in Little Rock involves a former Verizon Wireless vice president, who was in a high-level position of trust, and had direct access to confidential, proprietary trade secret information, which is not generally available to others and would be extremely valuable to any of Verizon Wireless' competitors, especially AWCC," Nicol said.  "In essence, the employee has switched sides of the same ongoing negotiation and will now be responsible for purchasing the same services on behalf of AWCC that he was selling on behalf of Verizon Wireless.  We are seeking an injunction to prevent the irreparable competitive harm to our business that will occur through the disclosure of such highly competitive information."

For more:
- see this AP article

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Article updated Jan. 4 with comment from Verizon.