Napleton Automotive sues former Carmel general manager for taking secrets, poaching employees

  • Comments
  • Print

The owner of a Carmel car dealership is suing its former manager and his new employer in federal court, accusing the employee of stealing trade secrets and poaching other workers as part of his move to a competing dealership earlier this year.

Chicago-based Napleton Automotive Group claims Garrett McDonald, who led its Napleton Kia of Carmel showroom, took confidential information from the dealership’s computer system when he left in February to take the same role at Bob Rohrman Kia in Lafayette.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, alleges McDonald violated federal and state trade secrets acts by emailing detailed information about Napleton Kia’s operations—including revenue, business forms, price lists and invoices—to a Rohrman executive.

Both McDonald and Lafayette-based Bob Rohrman Motors Inc. are listed as defendants in the suit.

According to the suit, several employees recruited by Napleton and McDonald during his time with the dealership left the company in 2021 to follow McDonald to his new job—the result of what Napleton described as “an aggressive raiding strategy employed and participated by and with full knowledge of the Rohrman Dealerships.”

Napleton alleges the misuse of corporate information and poaching of employees constitutes charges of unfair competition, willful misappropriation of trade secrets, conversion, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duties and tortious interference with a contract against both McDonald and Rohrman Automotive.

McDonald, previously of California, was hired by Napleton in 2020 to run the Carmel dealership—his first post as general manager, according to the suit. He also coordinated the hire of at least eight people with whom he’d worked in California to join the Napleton team or an associated dealership, according to the lawsuit.

As part of his hire, McDonald allegedly signed a non-competition agreement that barred him from engaging with customers or clients of the company for at least six months after his departure, and from working for a competitor of the dealership for at least 12 months.

But in the weeks leading up to his Feb. 14 departure, the dealership alleges, McDonald was in contact with Trey Rohrman, director of operations for that family of dealerships, sharing confidential information about Napleton’s operations.

McDonald “wrongfully conspired and coordinated with the Rohrman Dealerships and Trey Rohrman to systematically plunder and utilize in unfair competition the proprietary business information and trade secrets belonging” to Napleton, sending multiple emails on Jan. 28 and Feb. 4 to Rohrman and its executives that included confidential financial information and customer lists.

The emails also allegedly included McDonald referring to Trey Rohrman as his “boss,” and insinuations of how the information in the correspondences could be used—“This will be good comparison information for us,” and “We may want to try to get the same deal,” for example.

“Defendants have impermissibly harvested and misappropriated the Napleton Group’s trade secrets in an effort for the Rohrman Dealerships to gain an unfair competitive advantage over the Napleton Group,” the lawsuit claims.

McDonald also allegedly met with several employees at the dealership in the days before his departure, offering encouragement and incentives on behalf of Rohrman for the employees to leave and work with him.

In its suit, Napleton does not demand a jury trial, but asks for damages in “an amount to be proven at trial,” including punitive damages, attorney fees and court costs, and an injunction that would prevent Rohrman from continuing to use information allegedly misappropriated by McDonald.

Reached by IBJ on Thursday, McDonald declined to comment. Representatives of Rohrman Motors did not immediately return a call requesting comment.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

3 thoughts on “Napleton Automotive sues former Carmel general manager for taking secrets, poaching employees

  1. So Napleton “raided” the California dealer that McDonald worked for, and that’s ok, but when Rohrmann does the same thing to them, it’s not ok?

    1. Fair question, but I think apples/oranges. Leaving CA for a promotion to a GM job in Chicago, is VERY different than moving to a competitor across town in the same time as a GM, and more importantly, with a signed non-compete. I don’t think salespeople following a GM to a different dealer is an issue.