$11 Million Judgment for Food Manufacturer

A start-up company developed several innovative food products, including shelf stable cookie dough that needed no refrigeration before baking. After several years of development efforts and product improvement, a large national retailer agreed to sell the product in its stores. Other companies were also negotiating to license the product. The company’s CEO, seeing this success, developed a plan to intentionally bankrupt and steal the business opportunity from the existing company and pursue it with his own newly-formed company.

The bankruptcy trustee retained Bakke Norman to sue to recover damages from the former CEO and his co-conspirators due to the theft of the business opportunity.

During 14 days of trial, we established that the CEO and others were guilty of racketeering, violating Wisconsin’s Organized Crime Control Act, conspiracy and malicious injury to the manufacturer. The court found the defendants guilty of theft, misappropriation of trade secrets and intentional interference with contractual relations. All of this amounted to a serious breach of their fiduciary duty to the company and its investors.

Although the defendants claimed that our client’s company was worthless, we established its value at $5,200,789. Because of the defendants’ fraud and other intentional acts, that amount was doubled by the court, increasing the award to $10,401,578. In addition, the court assessed punitive damages against the CEO for $600,000, making the total judgment $11,001,578.