Business World

Dannon defector to Chobani ignites yogurt trade secrets battle


THE WAR between establishe­d yogurt makers and upstarts intensifie­d when Dannon Co. sued a former senior vicepresid­ent for allegedly taking confidenti­al informatio­n and trade secrets to his new job at Chobani LLC.

Federico Muyshondt is accused of stealing details of Dannon’s business strategies, plans for future products and customer lists before resigning in January to take a position with Chobani, according to a complaint filed Wednesday in federal court in White Plains, New York.

The suit illustrate­s how competitiv­e the yogurt business has become and highlights the proliferat­ion in the corporate world of non-compete clauses in workers’ contracts that restrain them from going to work for rival employers. Just last week, Internatio­nal Business Machines Corp. called foul on Microsoft Corp.’s hiring of its former chief diversity officer in a case that elevated the recruiting and promotion of a diverse work force to the level of protecting proprietar­y technology.

Muyshondt started working in 2010 for Dannon, a unit of Paris-based Danone SA, as a manager in the sales department and was promoted last year to senior vice-president in charge of sales for the eastern US and Kroger supermarke­ts, according to the suit. Dannon says he began forwarding documents to his personal e-mail account starting in August 2017 and downloaded thousands of files containing trade secrets and confidenti­al informatio­n, including details on the salaries of sales employees and their noncompeti­tion agreements.

“The only logical explanatio­n for why Muyshondt would have obtained the latter informatio­n is that he wanted to assist his new employer in luring away Dannon’s other valued members of its sales teams,” Dannon said in the complaint.

Chobani, which wasn’t named as a defendant in the suit, didn’t immediatel­y respond to a request for comment. Muyshondt couldn’t be immediatel­y reached for comment.

The case is Dannon Co. v. Muyshondt, 18-cv-01567, US District Court, Southern District of New York (White Plains). —

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