The chief operating officer of the billion-dollar international law firm Proskauer Rose abruptly left the company — and country — with confidential information including the firm’s highly-sensitive “black book,” according to a new court filing.
The white-shoe Manhattan law firm — which has repped the NBA, European soccer teams, and private equity firms — sued Jonathan O’Brien, 55, in Manhattan Federal Court, a week after he put in his notice and said he was heading to the East African country of Mauritius, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday.
O’Brien’s resignation came just days after he received his holiday bonus. When asked if he would stick around to help the company transition, O’Brien said, “I owe the firm nothing,” the firm claims.
He also told a colleague that the company would be “very angry” when they learned where he’d be working next, according to the lawsuit.
Meanwhile, O’Brien had been hatching a plan to steal company secrets for at least a month, the firm alleges. He copied confidential information onto a flash drive labeled “2022 tax documents” and deleted thousands of his emails, the suit alleges.
The firm said its computer systems are programmed to prevent copying information onto removable drives, like USB devices, but claimed O’Brien exploited his high-ranking position by telling an IT employee to override the security measure so he could give information to an outside consultant.
The company later found a list on O’Brien’s computer of information he intended to steal –including the firm’s financial records and “Black Book Binder,” which includes detailed records on how much Proskauer pays it partners and spends its profits, according to court filings.
“Proskauer is nearing its 150th anniversary as a law firm,” according to the filing. “The Firm is unaware of any employee (much less an officer) ever acting in such a corrupt, debased, and illegal manner.”
“Mr. O’Brien knew this information would be highly useful to Proskauer’s competitors, as it would enable them to effectively target and recruit Proskauer’s partners, practice groups, and clients,” the lawsuit said.
O’Brien, a graduate of the University of Exeter in England, is not an attorney and had been COO for more than five years after he was initially brought on as the chief financial officer in 2015.
The firm is asking a judge to “block O’Brien from misusing its data” and is seeking unspecified damages.
Proskauer Rose did not respond to requests for comment, and O’Brien could not be reached.