Engineering company invokes Economic Espionage Act in lawsuit against competitor over federal contract

By Chelsea Partington | Jul 3, 2014

NEW ORLEANS – A Montana-based LLC licensed to do business in Louisiana is suing a competitor for allegedly sabotaging their business relationships with multiple government agencies.

Vali Cooper International LLC filed suit against Kincaid & Company LLC in the Orleans Parish Civil District Court.

On Aug. 29, 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy allegedly issued a solicitation for engineering and architectural services for the DOE’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve facilities and pipelines in which small businesses classified as such by the Federal Acquisition Regulations were encouraged to submit offers in response to the DOE’s proposal.

According to the filing, on Jan. 21, the DOE notified Vali Cooper that it had been approved for the negotiation of a contract to provide services under the solicitation. Kincaid & Company had also purportedly submitted an offer, but was not selected.

In a letter dated Jan. 27, Kincaid submitted a size protest to the DOE, the suit claims. This questioned the DOE’s determination that Vali Cooper qualified as a small business relevant to the solicitation.

The plaintiff alleges that due to Kincaid’s size protest, Vali Cooper received a letter dated Jan. 30 from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The letter notified the plaintiff that its small business size status had been challenged. Vali Cooper was given three days to provide detailed information regarding its finances and business relationships.

According to the suit, Kincaid’s protest included a draft document that Vali Cooper had intended for internal use only. The plaintiff claims that the document was different from the final document that Vali Cooper submitted to the DOE on Nov. 13, 2013.

On Feb. 3, Vali Cooper informed the DOE that the nature and content of the protest was improper, given Kincaid’s use of the draft.

Vali Cooper claims that the draft contained confidential, sensitive, and proprietary information that had been protected with reasonable safeguards. The petition alleges that the metadata attached to the document contained comments made by “T. Hurtsell” on Jan. 25. The suit also alleges that “T. Hurtsell” is a principal of Kincaid & Company.

The plaintiff is asserting that Kincaid & Company deliberately acted with the intention of damaging Vali Cooper International’s business relationships with the Department of Energy, the Small Business Administration and other government agencies for the purpose of gaining an unfair business advantage.

Vali Cooper is also suggesting that a third party may have been involved with Kincaid’s size protest.

The defendant is accused of tortious interference with a business relationship, defamation, breach of professional standards, and violation of the Federal Procurement Act, the Economic Espionage Act and the Louisiana Unfair Trade Practices Act, in addition to applicable federal regulations.

The plaintiff is seeking an unknown amount in damages for the aforementioned allegations, in addition to attorney fees and all costs accrued during legal proceedings.

Vali Cooper, International LLC is being represented by represented by Johnny E. Dollar of Dollar Law Firm LLC.

The case has been assigned to Division C Judge Sidney H. Cates IV.

Case no. 2014-02667.

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