ROCK ISLAND, Ill. --- A man who once headed up Deere & Co.'s largest combine-making factory is being sued for allegedly giving trade secrets to a competitor.
Eric Hansotia was hired last month by AGCO in a position that "significantly overlaps" his former responsibilities at Deere, according to a lawsuit recently filed in U.S. District Court, Rock Island.
"In his position at AGCO, Hansotia cannot help but use, and will inevitably disclose, Deere's trade secrets and confidential and proprietary information in breach of his confidentiality agreements and in violation of the Illinois Trade Secrets Act," the lawsuit states.
The latest development in the suit came last week when U.S. District Judge John Gorman entered a protective order guarding the trade secrets based on a motion filed by Deere attorneys.
"By policy, we will not comment specifically on any matter in litigation," Ken Golden, Deere's global public relations director, said Friday. "It is important to note that Deere & Co. will always make a concerted effort to protect the company’s trade secrets."
Hansotia's attorneys couldn't be reached for comment.
The lawsuit filed July 16 said Hansotia took on a series of "increasingly important positions" and was "highly compensated" over his 24 years with Deere.
For five years he served as general manager at John Deere Harvester Works in East Moline before becoming senior vice president of the Global Harvesting division in 2012. His employment with Deere ended March 19.
He was entrusted with confidential information and was deeply involved in and had access to Deere's development of strategic business plans, the lawsuit states.
In his last four days of work, Hansotia connected portable electronic storage devices, some of which computer logs indicate contained Deere trade secrets, to his Deere computer, and he may have kept those devices after his employment ended, the lawsuit states.
"Deere cannot locate any of these devices in its possession," the lawsuit states, adding an investigation into Hansotia's "misuse of Deere's computer systems" is ongoing.
The Duluth, Georgia-based AGCO, a primary direct competitor in the agriculture harvesting equipment market, hired Hansotia on July 1, the lawsuit states.
Deere is seeking immediate injunctive relief.