Newport Beach-based Jackson Hunter Morris & Knight, LLP, which provides legal advice to consumers and small businesses facing crushing debt, is used to making legal moves on behalf of its clients. But the $10 million lawsuit the firm that goes by JHMK just filed is against four former employees [see update] who allegedly stole client data from the firm, defamed the firm on blogs and posed as sheriff's deputies when contacting some of the firm's "impressionable clients."
Also listed as a defendant in the suit filed late Wednesday is New Century Solutions, Inc. That Lake Forest competitor is accused of hiring three of the four fired JHMK employees, spreading false information about JHMK and coercing JHMK clients to leave the firm for New Century Solutions, jeopardizing many creditor settlements that were near completion. [See update]
The four "former disgruntled employees of the firm, whom were terminated for cause," according to a release from JHMK, are: Johnny Wayne Pettyjohn, Alejandro Reyes, Steven August Wiggenhauser and Ross G. Erskine. [The case was dismissed; see update]
They are accused of posting dozens of false complaints about JHMK, according to the suit, which alleges libel, defamation, theft of trade secrets and other offenses. The complaint seeks to permanently enjoin the four "from their repetitive posting of false and misleading information on internet complaint websites, which are viewed by millions of consumers worldwide."
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"If this was a boxing match, they would have been disqualified for hitting us below the belt," says William Hunter, a managing partner with JHMKin the firm's media statement. "We are here to help, not to hurt."
John Legge, the firm's founder, has a more harumph-sounding quote:
"We simply refuse to tolerate such a blatant attack on the character and values of our organization, and more importantly, the suspected outright theft of our client's personal and confidential financial information. We employ significant methods and processes to protect our clients' personal information from slipping into the wrong hands; however, in this instance, we simply could not have forecasted that our own people may be responsible for these bold and outright unethical crimes."
If JHMK wins the suit and the four former employees and New Century Solutions are wiped out by a $10 million judgment, we know where they can go for help (not hurt). [JHMK obviously did not win the suit; see update]