Hershey Co. has sued in federal court to recover $618,000 in compensation from a top executive who formerly ran its Amplify Snack Brands division and allegedly downloaded confidential files as he was leaving the company for a competitor.
Doug Behrens, Amplify president, quit Hershey last summer. But before Behrens departed for Kind LLC, a snack bar firm, he allegedly emailed to his Yahoo account more than 100 documents and then tried to hide his tracks, according to the lawsuit filed this week in Harrisburg. Many documents “contained Hershey’s confidential and trade secret information,” the suit claims.
Hershey is seeking to recover a $250,000 sign-on bonus because Behrens left Hershey before he worked through a 24-month period to qualify for the bonus and $368,000 in vested stock units in his compensation package.
Behrens, now president and chief customer officer at Kind, could not be reached for comment at the nut bar maker. An attorney was not listed for him on court documents. He left Amplify last August and started that month at Kind, according to his LinkedIn page.
Hershey, one of the nation’s largest chocolate companies, acquired Austin, Texas-based Amplify in January 2018 to diversify into “better-for-you” snacks. Amplify brands include SkinnyPop and Oatmega. Hershey says in the suit that “it does not prevent Behrens from working for Kind (he is free to continuing doing so) based on information available at this time.”
Among the downloads last July 23 and July 24, and Aug. 1 and 6, were executive-level slide presentations on mergers and acquisitions under consideration by Hershey, an analysis on the snack bar market, and "a lengthy list of Amplify’s customers and information about their preferences,” according to the suit.
According to the suit, Behrens “tried to cover his tracks” by re-installing on Aug. 10 the Windows operating system on his Amplify laptop, which would hide whether he downloaded files from his laptop to a flash drive.
Behrens resigned from Amplify on July 16, agreeing to a 30-day transition period. He informed Hershey on Aug. 14 that Kind had hired him.