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FULL DETAILS ON TNA LAWSUIT VS. WWE - TNA ALLEGES BRIAN WITTENSTEIN EMAILED WWE COMPLETE TNA ROSTER CONTRACT INFORMATION, WITTENSTEIN CLAIMS WWE REQUESTED THE INFORMATION AND MORE

By Mike Johnson on 2012-05-30 12:14:34
A look at the lawsuit TNA filed last week against World Wrestling Entertainment and Brian Wittenstein provides deeper insight into exactly what confidential materials TNA alleges that Wittenstein provided to WWE, why they are suing WWE as well as Wittenstein and why the company feels WWE tampered with Ric Flair's TNA deal.

In the 37 page lawsuit filing obtained by PWInsider.com, TNA stated that Wittenstein signed a Severance Agreement with the company in August 2011 (which means that unlike what he claimed to PWInsider, Wittenstein was let go by TNA) where he agreed to a severance package in exchange for returning any company materials and not disclosing confidential TNA information. TNA included a copy of Wittenstein's Severance Agreement in the filing, blacking out only the amount he was paid by the company as severance.

In violation of the Severance Agreement, Wittenstein then allegedly "downloaded and took TNA's confidential, trade secret and proprietary information after leaving his employment with TNA." The lawsuit noted that Wittenstein, in his position as Talent Relations Coordinator, had access to TNA's computer network and proprietary information.

TNA's lawsuit admitted that the company TNA is "uncertain of the full breadth of Wittenstein's theft" and at minimum, the company believes he took documents including copies of TNA's policies and procedures, a spreadsheet contained personal and confidential information regarding TNA's wrestling talent and staff, a spreadsheet containing the terms of TNA's contracts "with its prospective, present and past wrestling talent", a spreadsheet containing "confidential information regarding activity, payment and royalty reports" for TNA talents, a draft contract between TNA and one of its wrestlers, an executed contract between TNA and one of its wrestlers and a draft promotional agreement between TNA and a licensee.

TNA noted that their Severance Agreement with Wittenstein allowed him to go work for WWE or any other competitor as long as he "complied with his obligations" not to use TNA's material or information.

Instead, Wittenstein sent a memorandum to WWE "summarizing TNA's contracts with its wrestling talent." TNA's filing included an excerpt of Wittenstein's email, where he wrote, "Attached, please find a contract status and terms chart for the TNA Wrestling roster. I combined a bunch of different documents I had from there to put it all in one concise spreadsheet that should capture all the relevant information you would be interested in. Here are a few notes for you regarding the TNA deals."

So, TNA is alleging that every piece of important material relating to their roster's contracts were handed over to their primary competitor, which explains the Unfair Competition aspect of their lawsuit. They believe WWE knows all of their contractual details when it comes to talent and can make moves to out-maneuver TNA when necessary with that information.

Wittenstein's supervisor (possibly Michael Hayes, as he was working as Hayes' assistant, according to PWInsider sources) turned the material over to WWE's legal department. Wittenstein was terminated by WWE in April, having worked there for three months as a "Live Event Booking Assistant", according to his LinkedIn.com profile.

TNA was unaware of the issue until 5/7, when WWE's Vice President of Legal/Business Affairs Scott Amann contacted TNA's General Counsel Creede Williams, informing the company that Wittenstein had divulged TNA information to WWE without WWE's solicitation of the information and they had terminated Wittenstein for that breach. The filing noted that Amann forwarded a copy of TNA's information, which TNA has received in "both hard and electronic form".

TNA alleged in the suit that WWE was in possession of the material for three weeks before contacting them and that when questioned, Amann "did not explain the reason(s) for the delay". In their filing, TNA noted that they contacted Wittenstein, who admitted the disclosure of the information and "represented to TNA that he did so at the request of WWE." TNA believes that WWE "solicited and/or induced" Wittenstein to provide them with TNA's confidential information and has "unclean hands" in the matter.

The lawsuit filing also claimed that TNA "has reason to believe" that WWE is using the information to "solicit or induce TNA's current wrestling talent to end their contractual relationships with TNA." TNA noted that on 5/9, Ric Flair, described as under exclusive contract to TNA, "attempted to terminate his contractual relationship with TNA" and "made statements" that led TNA to believe he was planning to join WWE. The company noted that Flair's timing to WWE's admission to TNA that they were in possession of TNA's confidential information is "highly suspect" and that Flair was in breach of his TNA deal by not showing for events, including the Sacrifice PPV.

In a later filing, TNA requested two hour depositions with Flair, John Laurinaitis and Paul Levesque (HHH) in regard to the case. The lawsuit makes no reference to Flair appearing at Wrestlemania and the WWE Hall of Fame earlier this year, so that appearance, which TNA signed off on after negotiating with WWE, is not in question in any way, shape or form at this time.

There are no other TNA talents specifically named as being allegedly tampered with by WWE. Obviously, there have been and will be again cases of talent signed to one company sending feelers out and even having secret meetings with other companies.

TNA put up a $30,000 bond to prevent WWE and Wittenstein from using, damaging or copying any confidential material they may have in their possession and the court has demanded all materials be returned prior to a 6/11 hearing on the case in Nashville. TNA filed the lawsuit in Nashville as Wittenstein worked in their corporate offices and agreed when he signed his severance agreement that any issues would be heard in court in TN. Since WWE does business in the State, TNA has stated they have filed the suit there and WWE would be under TN jurisdiction as well.

TNA is suing for interference with existing contracts, conversion, breach of contract, civil conspiracy, unfair competition, and violation of the Tennessee Uniform Trade Secrets Act. They are also suing Wittenstein for breach of duty of loyalty. TNA is seeking reimbursement of payments made to Wittenstein as part of their Severance Agreement as well as it's attorney fees and expenses in bring forth the lawsuit.

They are also seeking a court order to permanently enjoin WWE and Wittenstein from ever disclosing, using or maintaining TNA's confidential material. An injunction was issued demanding that WWE and Wittenstein each return whatever confidential material Wittenstein retained from his time working for TNA. They were specifically instructed not to "destroy" any of the material.

TNA is claiming a civil conspiracy in their lawsuit as WWE and Wittenstein "conspired and agreed" to share confidential, trade secret and proprietary information Wittenstein "wrongfully took" from TNA. They stated that WWE would use and "did use" that information "to solicit and induce TNA's wrestling talent to breach their contracts with TNA and enter into contracts with WWE."

TNA noted that due to Wittenstein and WWE's "misappropriation and/or threatened misappropriation of TNA's trade secrets, TNA will suffer damages, as well as immediate and irreparable harm. TNA has no adequate remedy at law." The lawsuit noted that "money damages cannot adequately compensate TNA, even if Defendants could respond by paying money damage."

The filing noted that TNA was "damaged in an amount in excess of the court's minimal jurisdictional limits" and that the conduct of WWE and Wittenstein "entitles TNA to an award of exemplary damages in an amount in excess of this Court's minimal jurisdictional limit."

Neither WWE nor Wittenstein have officially responded to the court as of this writing.