Angliss Singapore sues ex-staff for misappropriating confidential information

Angliss Singapore alleges that the misappropriation resulted in the loss of a distributorship it had held for over 40 years. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM GOOGLE MAPS

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) - Food supplier Angliss Singapore is suing a former senior employee who allegedly misappropriated confidential information when he left the company for a competitor, resulting in the loss of a distributorship it had held for over 40 years.

Angliss alleges that Roger Yee Heng Khay, its former business development manager, took over 100 files containing confidential information when he was about to join competitor firm Indoguna, which allowed Indoguna to solicit Angliss' key dairy product supplier Arla, or allowed Mr Yee to persuade Arla to switch distributors.

The company lost profits of $749,000 as a result of losing the distributorship, according to Angliss' expert witness for assessing damages.

The expert witness also assessed the loss of chance to enter into a three-year distribution agreement with Arla at $267,000.

Angliss claims that Mr Yee breached his confidentiality obligation under his employment contract, as well as the non-compete and solicitation clause, and his fiduciary duties.

In its opening statement, Angliss' lawyers from NLC Law Asia showed that Mr Yee was part of a meeting between Angliss' management and Arla's representatives in July 2017, where Angliss came to an in-principle agreement with Arla.

Subsequently, Mr Yee requested restricted files from a colleague, including those related to Angliss' distribution of Arla brands. He later forwarded emails containing some of the files to his personal email and copied other files to a USB device.

During this time, Mr Yee also met with some representatives of Indoguna regarding a potential role as brand manager.

On Dec 30, 2017, Arla informed Angliss that it would not be renewing its distributorship arrangement with Angliss and that it would be engaging Indoguna instead. Days later, Mr Yee tendered his resignation to Angliss.

The team from NLC Law Asia noted that prior to this, Indoguna was not a distributor of Arla's products and had no experience distributing dairy products.

They added: "Without Angliss' confidential information, in particular its client lists, client spending history and prices offered to individual customers, it would be impossible for a new distributor such as Indoguna to build up a sizeable customer base in a short span of time to match the sales revenue Angliss had been achieving for Arla."

In Mr Yee's defence, lawyers from CHP Law said that he cannot be in breach of confidentiality as the information is either not confidential, being within the public domain, or is only mere confidential information and already part of Mr Yee's general skill or knowledge.

They also said that Mr Yee only forwarded emails to his personal email to seek "assistance and advice" from his wife, on whom he relied due to his educational background. Mr Yee's wife is Jocelin Soon, a chief financial officer at Interplex.

In addition, Mr Yee's lawyers noted that Arla desired an exclusive distribution agreement. They argued that Angliss was not prepared to enter into one, as it would mean not being able to distribute other dairy brands in direct competition with Arla.

For instance, they noted that there is no evidence that Angliss took "any preparatory steps" to terminate or cease distributing other dairy brands.

Angliss "was and continues to live in denial" that this was the reason it lost the distributorship, Mr Yee's lawyers said.

The trial ended last Friday. The High Court is expected to make its judgment six months later.

Follow ST on LinkedIn and stay updated on the latest career news, insights and more.