The chief operating officer of the multibillion-dollar global law firm Proskauer Rose abruptly left the organization and fled the country with sensitive information, including the firm’s top-secret “black book,” according to court documents.
The white-shoe Manhattan law firm sued Jonathan O’Brien, 55, in Manhattan Federal Court, a week after he gave his notice and declared he was leaving for the East African nation of Mauritius, according to the lawsuit filed on Tuesday.
Only a few days after receiving his Christmas bonus, O’Brien tendered his resignation. According to the firm, when asked if he would stay on to assist the business with the transition, O’Brien replied, “I owe the firm nothing.”
The lawsuit claims that he also warned a coworker that the company would be “extremely upset” if they found out where he would be working next.
The firm claims that O’Brien had been preparing a scheme to steal company secrets for at least a month. The lawsuit claims that he deleted thousands of his emails and copied confidential information onto a flash drive marked “2022 tax documents.”
The company said its computer systems are programmed to prevent copying information onto removable drives, like USB devices. But, O’Brien took advantage of his high-ranking position by instructing an IT worker to bypass the security measure so he could give information to an outside consultant, according to the lawsuit.
According to court documents, the company later discovered a list on O’Brien’s computer of the information he wanted to steal, which included the company’s financial records and “Black Book Binder,” which has extensive records on how much Proskauer pays its partners and spends its revenues.
The filing states that “Proskauer is approaching its 150th anniversary as a law firm. The Firm has never seen an employee (much less an officer) behave in such a corrupt, degrading, or criminal way.”
“Mr. O’Brien was aware that the competitors of Proskauer would be able to effectively target and recruit Proskauer’s partners, practice groups and clients with the help of this information,” according to the lawsuit.
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O’Brien, a graduate of the University of Exeter in England, is not an attorney and has been COO for more than five years after being initially brought on as the chief financial officer in 2015.
In addition to requesting unspecified damages, the company is asking a judge to “prevent O’Brien from misusing its data.”
O’Brien has been out of reach.