“The law is not a game, and . . . civil discovery is not a game of hide and seek. The decision in this case should encourage litigants to understand that it is risky business to recklessly or deliberately fail to produce documents, and perilous to disobey court orders to review and, if necessary, supplement prior productions. It is in the interests of the administration of justice to default [defendants] to send those messages.”

So said United States District Judge Mark L. Wolf in a 72-page decision in which he entered a default judgment as a sanction in a trade secret case against the defendants for what he referred to as “extreme misconduct.” Memorandum and Order on Plaintiff’s Motion for Sanctions, Red Wolf Energy Trading, LLC v. BIA Capital Mgmt., LLC, et al., C.A. No. 19-10119-MLW (D. Mass. Sept. 8, 2022).

Continue Reading Pennywise and Pound Foolish: Default Judgment Entered Against Trade Secret Defendants as a Sanction for Inadequate E-Discovery

As our antitrust colleagues explained recently, on August 26, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published its “Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2022–2026,” as required under the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010.  Readers of this blog will be interested in two small, but important, items in the Strategic Plan related to noncompete agreements.

First, under “Objective 2.1: Identify, investigate, and take actions against anticompetitive mergers and business practices,” the FTC opines that “[a]nticompetitive mergers and business practices harm Americans through higher prices, lower wages, or reduced quality, choice, and innovation. Enforcement of antitrust laws provides substantial benefits to the public by helping to ensure that markets are open and competitive.” It then identifies certain “[s]trategies” that the FTC intends to pursue over the next five years, including “[i]ncreas[ing] use of provisions to improve worker mobility including restricting the use of non-compete provisions.” It’s unclear exactly what provisions it intends to increase its use of, but nonetheless the FTC will be focused on the issue.

Continue Reading The Federal Trade Commission’s Five-Year Strategic Plan Unsurprisingly Includes a Focus on Noncompetes

As we have previously reported, the Colorado Assembly passed sweeping changes to the state’s noncompete law that, among other things, (1) set compensation floors for enforcement of both noncompetes ($101,250) and customer non-solicitation agreements ($60,750), which will be adjusted annually based on inflation; (2) require a separate, standalone notice to employees before a new or prospective worker accepts an offer of employment, or at least 14 days before the earlier of: (a) the effective date of the restrictions, or (b) the effective date of any additional compensation or changes in the terms or conditions of employment that provide consideration for the restriction, for existing workers; and (3) prohibit the inclusion of out-of-state choice-of-law and venue provisions. Those amendments take effect today, August 10, 2022.

Compliance with these amendments is even more important due to a prior amendment, effective earlier this year, which provides that violations of Colorado’s noncompete law can subject employers to criminal liability (a Class 2 misdemeanor, which carries possible punishment of 120 days in prison, a $750 fine per violation, or both), as well as hefty fines and possible injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees to aggrieved workers.

Continue Reading Reminder: Amendments to Colorado Noncompete Law Take Effect Today

Our colleagues Peter A. Steinmeyer, Erik W. Weibustand Angel A. Perezattorneys at Epstein Becker Green, co-authored a 2022 Thomson Reuters Practical Law Practice Note titled “Ethical Issues for Attorneys Related to Restrictive Covenants.”

Following is an excerpt (see below to download the full version in PDF format):


Continue Reading Restrictive Covenants May Raise Ethical Issues for Attorneys

As readers of this blog likely know, many states have entirely different statutory schemes for noncompetes in the healthcare industry. Indeed, while 47 states generally permit noncompetes, more than a dozen expressly prohibit or limit them in certain sectors of the healthcare industry – typically for patient-facing clinicians.

For example, in Massachusetts, noncompetes are not permissible in “[a]ny contract or agreement which creates or establishes the terms of a partnership, employment, or any other form of professional relationship with a physician registered to practice medicine . . . , which includes any restriction of the right of such physician to practice medicine in any geographic area for any period of time after the termination of such partnership, employment or professional relationship.” The same restriction applies to Massachusetts nurses, psychologists, and social workers.

Continue Reading Healthcare Noncompete Laws Get a Checkup in Four States and the District of Columbia

Despite the Supreme Court’s recent 6-3 ruling in West Virginia v. EPA that regulatory agencies must have “clear congressional authorization” to make rules pertaining to “major questions” that are of “great political significance” and would affect “a significant portion of the American economy,” and the import of that ruling to the area of noncompete regulation (which we addressed in detail in Law360), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced yesterday that they are teaming up to address certain issues affecting the labor market, including the regulation of noncompetes.

In a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) issued on July 19, 2022, the FTC and NRLB shared their shared view that:

Continue Reading The FTC Seemingly Thumbs Its Nose at the Supreme Court

As we previously reported, the Colorado General Assembly passed a bill in May making substantial amendments to Colorado’s noncompete statute, C.R.S. § 8-2-113. Governor Jared Polis signed the bill on June 8, 2022, meaning the amendments will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on August 10, 2022, which is only four weeks away. That may sound like a long time, but it will go by quickly.

Continue Reading Only One Month Until Dramatic Changes in Colorado’s Restrictive Covenants Law

Several states over the past few years have passed legislation prohibiting the use in noncompete agreements (and other employment-related agreements) of out-of-state choice-of-law and forum selection provisions. A few of these states’ laws include enforcement mechanisms with stringent penalties, such as California, which provides for injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees to an aggrieved employee; Washington, which entitles aggrieved employees to actual damages or statutory penalties of $5,000, as well as their attorneys’ fees; and, beginning in August, Colorado, where any violation of that state’s noncompete statute (including the prohibition on out-of-state choice-of-law and forum selection provisions) could lead to civil and criminal penalties.

Continue Reading Virginia Federal Court Rejects Massachusetts’ Statutory Prohibition on Out-of-State Forum Selection Clauses in Noncompete Agreements – Sort Of

Exchange Act Rule 21F-17, adopted in 2011 under the auspices of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, prohibits any person from taking any action to impede an individual from communicating directly with the SEC, including by “enforcing, or threatening to enforce, a confidentiality agreement . . . .”  The SEC has prioritized enforcing this rule expansively, by requiring employers to provide SEC-specific carveouts to policies and agreements governing confidentiality.  According to an Order issued last week against The Brink’s Company ( “Brink’s” or “Brinks”), the SEC seems to suggest that employers must provide a specific carveout in restrictive covenant agreements permitting employees and former employees to report information to the SEC in addition to the statutory disclosure provided for in the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA).

Continue Reading DTSA Whistleblower Language May Be Required, but Is It Sufficient? Not According to the SEC.

You don’t hear much positive news these days about noncompete agreements. Instead, most national media outlets take cases of extreme abuse and frame them as the norm instead of the outliers that they are. And the national media also often portrays employers in a negative light for allegedly forcing noncompetes on employees who purportedly have no choice in the matter and receive no benefit from the transaction. The data does not bear this out—indeed, according to reputable studies, workers who are presented with noncompetes before accepting jobs receive higher wages and more training, and are more satisfied in their jobs than those who are not bound by noncompetes—but that is beside the point when there is an attention-grabbing story to be written.

Continue Reading Can a Noncompete Increase Competitiveness? Arkansas Football Sure Hopes So.