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H+K Strategies, Weber Shandwick Reach a Settlement

Hill+Knowlton Strategies and Weber Shandwick have reached a settlement in the lawsuit Weber Shandwick filed back in January.

At that time, Weber Shandwick had been granted a temporary restraining order against H+K, Weber’s COO Ken Luce, and EVP Jody Venturoni. Weber alleged a breach of contract by the two execs, both longtime Weber staffers. The settlement involves H+K, Luce, Venturoni, and Luce’s company MaximaGroup. Both execs left Weber Shandwick after 15 years. Others left Weber for H+K in the months leading up to the filing.

Weber’s lawsuit alleged that Venturoni had “misappropriated” confidential documents, according to today’s press release from the firm. And, according to Weber’s release, Luce had “improperly solicited Weber Shandwick employees and clients.”

Court documents filed in January state:

“This action arises out of Defendants’ unlawful and deceitful misappropriation of Plaintiff Weber Shandwick’s confidential information and trade secrets as part of a predatory assault against Plaintiff Weber Shandwick intended to damage Weber Shandwick’s operations in the Southwest United States and beyond by, among other things, stealing confidential information, clients and employees.”

The details of the settlement are confidential, but Venturoni did release a statement, available after the jump.

Venturoni’s statement says:

“During my last year of employment with Weber Shandwick and immediately after my resignation, I took confidential information belonging to Weber Shandwick. I shared some of this information with employees at Hill & Knowlton. This information has since been returned to Weber Shandwick or destroyed. Weber Shandwick took justified legal action to protect its own business interests and those of its clients. We have reached a confidential settlement of this matter.”

A statement from H+K reads:

“We regret the circumstances that led Weber Shandwick to take legal action against H&K and certain of its employees. We understand Weber Shandwick took this action to protect its business interests. We have reached a confidential settlement of these matters.”

We received the following statement from Elisabeth Rutledge, SVP in H+K Strategies Dallas this morning:

“We are glad that this settlement will put an end to Weber Shandwick’s lawsuit. Because our primary focus is our clients, we welcome a resolution to this distraction. Our strong Hill+Knowlton Strategies team continues to work hard for our growing list of clients around the world.”

In comments made to Ad Age, both Luce and Venturoni say they wanted to draw the case to a close so that other employees and clients wouldn’t be impacted.

In a statement from Weber Shandwick, the firm says it’s “disappointed” with the actions of the two former executives, but is also “pleased with the conditions and terms of the settlement.”

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