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06.2013

Massachusetts Beverage Business

archivedOnBeerReport

THE BITTER BEER BATTLE

Over the last few months a flurry of lawsuits have been filed and counter-filed over watered-down beer and trade secrets. A former Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB) manager says the company is punishing him with a lawsuit for going public with its misdeeds. Earlier this year, two consumers filed a proposed class action in California against AB claiming it waters down some of its beer brands in order to boost profits. The plaintiffs’ attorney said his clients’ claims came from former “high-level” AB employees. Since the first suit, at least seven more have been filed. One week after the suit, AB struck back and sued James Clark, former director of operations support, for allegedly misappropriating trade secrets. Clark worked at AB from 1998 until June of 2O12, when he resigned to become a lawyer. But Clark is fighting the charges. He is urging a judge to dismiss AB’s suit, saying the company is trying to punish his whistleblowing. From 2OO8 to 2O12, Clark complained to about 2O senior managers about the company’s practices regarding alcohol content. He became involved in the consumer litigation shortly after he left AB. He also denies all claims that he disclosed trade secrets. AB’s suit “is designed to silence Mr. Clark and to punish him for standing up for consumers,” Clark’s attorney Robert Carichoff said. “To allow AB to proceed with this vindictive litigation would empower all employers to punish former employees like Mr. Clark for reporting misconduct and for speaking out on behalf of consumers.” Given the contentious nature of this battle it’s not likely to simmer down for some time.

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