|Joe Perkins (Donald Watkins' Facebook page)|
The founder of a Montgomery-based consulting group, known to some as a "dirty tricks" firm, is suing several former employees, claiming they set up entities to compete with Matrix LLC while still serving as Matrix employees. The suit also claims the former employees improperly retained Matrix trade secrets and proprietary information, including research techniques and confidential information related to the pricing of specialized communications services.
News of the lawsuit, filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court, surfaced last week in an Orlando Sentinel report about funds for "ghost candidates" in Florida state Senate races -- being traced to political operatives in Alabama. The funds wound up benefiting Republican candidates.
Prime defendant in the Perkins lawsuit is Jeff Pitts, who managed Matrix's Birmingham office and also served as the firm's chief executive officer. From the complaint, filed by Birmingham's Campbell Law Firm, which has represented Balch & Bingham in civil matters related to the North Birmingham Suprerfund bribery scandal (Complaint is embedded at the end of this post.):
Pitts created an entity called TMP Interactive in 2018 through which he operated a competing communications consulting business during his employment by Matrix. Pitts even provided services to Matrix clients but billed those clients through TMP Interactive, effectively embezzling money from and unlawfully competing with Matrix.
Starting in 2017, Pitts . . . created various other entities -- some 501(c)(4) organizations --as vehicles to accept money from various Matrix clients.
In late 2020, Pitts informed Perkins that he wanted to resign from Matrix and form his own competing communications company. That led to the formation of Canopy Partners LLC in Plantation, FL, and Pitts took three other Matrix workers with him. From the complaint:
Upon the resignation of these employees, Matrix changed the locks on its Birmingham office and undertook an inventory of the equipment it owned and was used by . . . the former employees. . . .
Matrix's in-house technology team realized that the computer server in the Birmingham office had been physically compromised. It appeared that someone had tried to physically destroy the server in an apparent attempt to prevent access to the electronic information it contained. This realization caused concern that Pitts and the other former employees were attempting to hide or destroy data stored on the server.