IBM Sues Former Executive Hired By Microsoft

Gene Peter February 13, 2018
IBM Sues Former Executive Hired By Microsoft

International Business Machines Corp. sued its former executive Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, who was named Microsoft Corp's new chief diversity officer over the weekend, alleging violation of a one-year non-competitive agreement.

The company called foul on Microsoft’s hiring of its chief diversity officer in a case that elevates recruiting and promotion of an inclusive workforce to the level of safeguarding proprietary technology.

IBM claims the information that Lindsay-Rae McIntyre possesses -- including confidential data about diversity, strategies, hiring targets, technologies, innovations and initiatives -- can cause "real and immediate competitive harm" if she’s allowed to move immediately to Microsoft. IBM sued to impose a one-year non-competition agreement.

IBM complained that McIntyre using and disclosing, whether intentionally or not, its confidential and sensitive information would put the company at a competitive disadvantage. IBM said in the lawsuit filed in a New York federal court on Monday.

“McIntyre was at the center of highly confidential and competitively sensitive information that has fueled IBM’s success” in diversity and inclusion, the company said in a statement. “While we understand Microsoft’s need to deal with mounting criticism of its record on diversity, IBM intends to fully enforce Ms. McIntyre’s non-compete agreement to protect our competitive information.”

While the lawsuit highlights the contention that can ensue when a senior employee bolts for a rival, it also shines a light on the increasing role that diversity measures play in corporate America. Technology and financial companies have reserved those fights in the past to employees who possessed key technical or strategic knowledge, not those entrusted to make decisions on hiring and the makeup of the workforce.

IBM is erroneously seeking to enforce an “overbroad” non-competition clause against an employee who has taken no confidential information, McIntyre’s lawyers responded in court filings.

"IBM surprisingly seeks a draconian temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to prevent McIntyre from working -- for an entire year, in any position, anywhere in the world, for any company IBM deems to be a ‘competitor’ in any dimension," her attorneys said.

U.S. District Judge Vincent L. Briccetti temporarily barred McIntyre from moving to Microsoft over her attorneys’ objections and scheduled a conference for Feb. 22.

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Gene Peter


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