Ex-Citadel Securities employees at Portofino want their dispute heard in London
Much as Citadel Securities is lauded for its generosity and its fine internships, people there do leave. And when they do, the strict covenants in its employment contracts can be challenging, not least because Citadel Securities polices them very aggressively.
In March 2021, Leonard Lancia and Alex Casimo left their jobs at Citadel Europe in London, where they made markets in European options. They say they were unhappy with the 'limited resources' and 'low priority' given to the European business. The two then founded Portofino Technologies, a crypto market maker. But, as we reported in May, Citadel was not happy with that. - In a US court filing, it claimed (among other things) that Lancia and Casimo, “engaged in a brazen scheme to steal Citadel Securities’ trade secrets, lie to their Citadel Securities colleagues and raid the ranks of Citadel Securities’ employees.”
Today, Lancia and Casimo have issued their rebuttal to that filing. They want the US case dismissed and for the issue to be dealt with in London.
They point out that most of the evidence and witnesses are in London, that Portofino is in London (the US company, Portofino Technologies USA, Inc., has never been used for any purpose; has no assets, no operations, and no employees) that the case concerns Citadel Securities' European operation, that the search firm which allegedly poached Citadel Securities employees is in London, and that the firms funding Portofino area all in London too.
By comparison, they say the case has almost nothing to do with New York, but for the fact that Portofino allegedly poached a single Citadel Securities employee from there.
Portofino's rebuttal also states that before it filed the case in New York, Citadel Securities filed another arbitration against Lancia and Casimo in London in June 2022. They say that this alleged that Lancia, Casimo, and another former employee violated their employment contracts by soliciting employees and possibly misusing confidential information, but that Citadel Europe said then that it didn't know if Portofino was using trade secrets - something claimed more far definitively in the US lawsuit.
The new rebuttal to the US case says Portofino isn't using Citadel Securities' trade secrets - largely because it also claims that Citadel Securities had zero interest in trading crypto products at the time that Lancia and Casimo worked there.
The rebuttal also posits that Portofino employees didn't breach their Citadel employment agreements. One person mentioned in the case, Taym Moustapha, was allegedly made redundant from Citadel after it closed down his desk. Portofino says he then resigned (and joined Portofino) rather than accept 'a different job at Citadel Europe that was below his experience level.'
In emailed comment, a spokesperson for Citadel Securities said:
"Lancia and Casimo secretly designed and launched a crypto market-making firm while employed by Citadel Securities, one of the most sophisticated market-making firms in the world. They lied to colleagues and held clandestine investor meetings during which they touted the access and the advantages they gained from working here. Further, their attempt to improperly poach Vincent Prieur, a New York-based employee described as the ‘aggregator of all things crypto’ at Citadel Securities is undisputed. We have a long track record of supporting employees who choose to start their own businesses – but when they brazenly engage in deception to do so, we will hold them accountable."
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