BRUSSELS, Belgium—Materials firm Solvay S.A. is denying allegations in a lawsuit filed by an employee claiming the company allowed Chinese firms to access the confidential information of U.S. customers.
The spokesman said an internal investigation into the claims "revealed no disclosure of customer commercial confidential information."
Mark Ardito filed the suit June 1 in Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta, Maine. Ardito worked for Brussels-based Solvay and its U.S.-based Solvay Specialty Polymers unit since 2003 as a sales development manager. He was based at his home in Belgrade, Maine.
In the lawsuit, Ardito said that Solvay "chose to exploit his strong track record and ability to generate customer trust to divert trade secrets and confidential information from U.S. customers to customers in China." The firm then retaliated against him when he tried to stop the information leaks, according to Ardito.
One of the Chinese companies identified by Ardito is Huawei Technologies Co., a major telecommunications firm. The U.S. government in 2019 banned U.S. firms from using equipment from Huawei and other Chinese firms that were labeled as national security risks.
Ardito took medical leave from Solvay in late 2018, briefly left the company, then returned to a lesser role. In the lawsuit, he said he first presented his findings to Solvay officials in 2018 and had presented them again as recently as February.
Ardito is seeking reinstatement to his previous position or payment of lost wages and benefits, as well as double the amount of back pay plus interest. He also is asking that the court have Solvay train its employees about civil rights.
In a statement to Plastics News, a Solvay spokesman said Ardito's allegations relate to Solvay Specialty Polymers' production of plastic watch bands.
"We categorically reject Mr. Ardito's claims," the spokesman said. "This case is about an employee pursuing his own personal agenda at the expense of his employer."
Ardito has demanded more than $7 million from Solvay as well as job promotions and paid relocations to other parts of the U.S., according to the spokesman.
"At every moment, Mr. Ardito has been treated with the utmost respect and fairness," he added. "His concerns were always addressed and at all times has been an active employee of Solvay Specialty Polymers."
The spokesman also said that the case does not involve Solvay Specialty Polymers' handling of U.S. Department of Defense confidential information.
The case is in the process of being transferred from a state court to U.S. District Court in Maine, according to a June 2 report in the Bangor Daily News.
Solvay is a global supplier of plastics and specialty chemicals. Solvay employs more than 24,000 worldwide and posted sales of $10.8 billion in 2020.