Reseller Decorus has been awarded almost £30,000 in damages following a High Court battle with an ex-employee whom a judge ruled breached a number of contractual obligations relating to the establishment of a rival.
High Court proceedings began between Basingstoke reseller Decorus and former salesman Daniel Penfold in May, along with Procure Store, a new company he had a hand in setting up.
During proceedings, Penfold was alleged to have breached his contractual duty of fidelity, breached restrictive covenants, and misused confidential information while at Decorus.
Today, judge Anne Molyneux handed down a ruling that the claimant, Decorus, be awarded damages of £29,852.17.
During today's court appearance, defence counsel Spencer Keen said Penfold now has "no assets, no car, no job and no property", adding that he will move in with his parents next month.
Penfold began working at Decorus on 2 April 2012 and handed in a letter of resignation on 7 January this year, which Decorus' managing director Paul Sheppard told the court last month came as "something of a shock", according to today's judgement. A year earlier, Penfold had handed in his notice, explaining that commuting was difficult and that he had been offered another job. His basic salary was then "slightly increased" and he was allowed to work from home three days a week, said the judgement.
When he handed in his notice this year, Sheppard said that Penfold had told him of an "urge to go out on his own", but said he reminded Penfold of his post-termination restrictions, the judgement claims.
In his evidence, Penfold said: "We have a conversation about covenants and I said 'do you not expect my customers to follow me?' to which Mr Sheppard replied 'yes'."
Prior to this, on 2 September 2015, Procure Store Limited was incorporated by a friend of Penfold, and he himself was not appointed as a director until 10 February this year, after his employment at Decorus had ended.
The judgement gave specific details about the use of "highly sensitive" purchasing logs, which Penfold accessed during his employment at Decorus.
Decorus claimed Penfold had accessed logs from October, November and December 2015 more than 40 times, adding that there was "no reason" to do so during the course of his employment. "It is to be inferred that [Penfold] has retained or copied the purchase log information for the benefit of himself or a third party", said the judgement.
But giving evidence to the court, Penfold said: "I had already decided to set up the business [Procure Store] when I looked at the logs. When I looked at them, it was to figure out how much profit I would make."
Molyneux's judgeement said: "There can be no doubt that the information which he viewed on the purchase logs was confidential, sensitive information which belonged to his employer... To use that information to assist him to establish a business so that he would compete with his employer cannot be other than a breach of his duty of fidelity."
Further, the judgement outlined Penfold's dealings with a company operated by his brother-in-law during his employment at Decorus. The document claims Penfold accepts that between October 2015 and February this year, he processed five orders through ProcureStore for his brother-in-law's business.
The judgement said: "Mr Penfold's conduct cannot be other than a breach of his duty of fidelity."
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