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St. Louis bank sues competitor for poaching employees, database theft


KANSAS CITY, Kan.—A Missouri-based bank chain has accused one of its local competitors of poaching its employees, clients, customer databases and trade secrets, according to a federal lawsuit.

Three former “key” employees at Creve Coeur, Mo.-based Pulaski Bank left the bank’s mortgage services division in Overland Park, Kan., last month for positions at First State Bank of St. Charles’ newly opened mortgage services office in the same town, according to a lawsuit filed by Pulaski Bank July 10 in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan.

In the suit, Pulaski Bank claims its St. Charles, Mo.-based competitor conspired with former Pulaski employees Rita Rieke, Linda Stewart and Charles Ziegler to redirect mortgage clients to First State Bank, as well as to improperly obtain access to Pulaski’s password-protected customer databases, sales techniques and other proprietary information.

Pulaski Bank also accused Ms. Rieke, who had been the company’s highest-performing producer in every month of 2012 prior to June, of conspiring with First State to “orchestrate a substantial exodus” of more than two dozen other Pulaski Bank workers. Ms. Rieke was fired from Pulaski Bank on June 21, after the bank claims it discovered evidence of her efforts, according to the suit.

The lawsuit accuses First State and the three former employees of fraud, breach of contract, tortious interference and conspiracy under state and federal laws.

Pulaski Bank has asked for a permanent injunction requiring First State to return all of the databases or other protected documents it has acquired through former Pulaski employees and destroy any copies or references of those materials it has made since.

Pulaski Bank also is seeking undetermined amounts in actual and punitive damages against all four defendants.

Neither bank responded to a request for comment.