EnergyWatch

Norlys CEO on Centrica legal dispute: A clean exoneration

Danish energy trader Norlys' CEO says he's very satisfied with the outcome of the legal battle with Centrica concerning conflicts on items including trade secrets and competition clauses.

Photo: Joachim Ladefoged/ERH

There are always two sides to every story.

The same is true of what the media have dubbed the trader war between Norlys Energy Trading and Centrica Energy Trading.

In an almost mystical manner, both parties are now satisfied with the outcome of their legal dispute involving everything from business secrets, competition clauses to breached marketing legislation and collective staff recruitment attempts.

Norlys Chief Executive and Chair Niels Duedahl now calls the Danish city court's ruling a "clean exoneration".

"We are very satisfied, and we're not surprised to have the received the court's favorable ruling on practically all the hirings and that there weren't any violations neither concerning non-compete clauses nor coordinated recruitment efforts. This is a crystal-clear exoneration for us in that regard. It's important for us, because we're not a business that short-cuts legislation or competition clauses," Duedahl tells EnergyWatch.

The judge's ruling reveals that the court doesn't acknowledge that Centrica's combined management acted illegally by trying to staff new positions by recruiting personnel from the rivaling firm. Nor did the ruling find it probable that Centrica Energy Trading's former management participated in recruiting other employees.

"We have the court's full favorable ruling that there's been nothing involving collective recruitment attempts nor violation of marketing legislation. These were indeed the two matters Centrica pursued, and they completely lost in this regard," Duedahl says.

Five out of seven

On the other side of table stands Centrica Energy Trading, which also revealed its satisfaction after the court ruling.

"For us, the case has been about protecting and defending our company and the work our personnel put into Centrica Energy Trading. It's been important for us to send a clear signal that the behavior shown is unfair and unacceptable. That's why it has been necessary for Centrica to pursue the matter, and we're pleased with the result achieved," says Centrica Energy Trading CEO Cassim Mangerah.

We're Denmark's largest consumer-owned company, and we don't run around breaking the law or breaching entered agreements. That's not in our nature

Norlys CEO Niels Duedahl

"The overall outcome of the injunction was that we were successful in obtaining a court order in respect of 5 out of 7 claims, thereby achieving a controlled and documented deletion of all intellectual property and business secrets that were illegally taken by former employees of Centrica Energy Trading," he adds.

Secrets and e-mails

Explained briefly, the dispute concerned, among other issues, the extent to which Centrica Energy Trading's staff took "business secrets" with them after being hired by Norlys Energy Trading.

Here, three employees have acknowledged having sent e-mails from the Centrica work accounts to their own private e-mails. An agreement has been reached that these must be deleted, and Norlys has informed the court the they have "never received, used nor disseminated any part of the information."

Duedahl declines to comment on these e-mails.

Non-compete clauses

The case also concerned compliance with non-compete clauses. A ruling was made in respect to a single employee's non-compete clause, which stipulates that the person in question may first begin at Norlys Energy Trading from February.

Norlys told the court that it has consistently intended to uphold the conventions.

"The case falls in our favor for 23 out of 24 points and rules that all clauses and agreements were upheld," says Duedahl.

The non-compete clauses entail profiles including Anders Bauditz, who was recruited as Norlys Energy Trading's CEO from Centrica Energy Trading in June.

Duedahl doesn't wish to disclose the duration of Bauditz' non-compete clause, but he does say that Norlys Energy Trading, of course, "respects both the competition clause applicable to Anders and all other employees".

"We're Denmark's largest consumer-owned company, and we don't run around breaking the law or breaching entered agreements. That's not in our nature," the CEO adds.

Self-protection

Mangerah explains that the case has also ensured that Centrica has been "successful in ensuring that two employees and Norlys will now observe their respective contractual non-compete clauses, which the employees disputed and Norlys refused to honor during the court proceedings."

"The result of this outcome is that Centrica Energy Trading has successfully protected its intellectual property and business secrets and upheld its contractual non-compete rights, and therefore has prevented an unlawful expedited entry by Norlys into the markets in which we operate," Mangerah continues.

English Edit: Daniel Frank Christensen

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