A company that makes and sells a proprietary blend of purported “wellness” herbs as part of its line of gourmet coffee, teas and hot chocolates has sued one of its former independent business owners/operators (IBOs) alleging, among other matters, disparagement, breach of a confidential performance agreement and non-competition clause, and the misappropriation of trade secrets. SereniGy Global, Inc. v. Mendoza, No. 13-08243CA04 (Cir. Ct., 11th Cir., Dade Cnty., Fla., filed March 6, 2013).

According to the complaint, the company relies on a network of IBOs to market and advertise its products and signed a performance agreement with the defendant to do so in March 2012. By October, the company allegedly “received information that Defendant had been making slanderous, derogatory and disparaging remarks about Plaintiff and its CEO in violation” of the agreement, was “divulging confidential information to a third-party,” and “had been disloyal and involved in moral turpitude by advising another IBO to attempt to extort $300,000.00 from the Plaintiff’s CEO.” After the company terminated the defendant’s IBO status, he allegedly “continued to violate the non-compete provisions of the terminated Performance Agreement.” The company claims that despite sending a cease and desist letter to the defendant in February 2013, he “continues to intentionally and maliciously engage in the non-compete and anti-raiding activities in violation of the Performance Agreement.”

Alleging breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, misappropriation of trade secrets, restraint of trade, tortious interference with contracts, and commercial disparagement, the company seeks in excess of $7 million in compensatory damages and $21 million in punitive damages. It claims to have created a “massive consumer demand” worldwide for its beverage and neutraceutical products containing ganoderma, “known for thousands of years to be associated with wellness, energy, longevity and balance.” The substance is apparently derived from mushrooms.