A pest control company is suing the government for alleged negligence, claiming environmental regulators unlawfully provided confidential business information to a newspaper in California.
The company, Suterra, which is based in Oregon, claims in the suit that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency committed an “unauthorized disclosure of proprietary product information” to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld represents Suterra.
Suterra’s suit against the government notes that the company handbook contains a confidentiality provision protecting business information and that only “necessary” employees have trade secret information. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, notes that the company is “located in a secured facility.”
Suterra’s lawyers, including Akin partner Paul Gutermann in Washington, said in court papers that the EPA released confidential trade secret information to a Sentinel reporter. At issue is the Suterra product called “Checkmate OLR-F,” which targets the light brown apple moth. That moth infested 11 counties from San Francisco to Los Angeles in May 2007, according to the suit.
The Sentinel published an article in September 2007. Suterra’s lawyers said the company “immediately took urgent remedial action to mitigate the harm” of the disclosure of ingredients in the newspaper article. Suterra’s lawyers demanded the newspaper stop any further publication and demanded it “remove all such information from its website,” according to the complaint.
Lawyers for Suterra said the Sentinel “initially complied,” notifying readers that “[t]he ingredients were erroneously provided to the Sentinel by the Environmental Protection Agency.” Other newpapers, according to Suterra’s complaint, republished the information Suterra said is a trade secret.
The EPA had the ingredient information on file ever since Suterra provided it to the agency in order to register the pesticide for sale. The suit alleges the government had an obligation to keep the information confidential.
An EPA spokeswoman declined to comment on the suit.