A new complaint against Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft and Sanford Heisler by a onetime engineer for Seagate Technology who became a whistle-blower against his former employer, is the latest evidence that whistle-blowers lead difficult lives. And according to the engineer, Paul Galloway, the lawyers who were supposed to be helping him instead made him unemployable.
In 2009 Galloway reached out to a company called Convolve, which, along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was suing Seagate for patent infringement and theft of trade secrets. Galloway, who was unemployed at the time (his complaint does not provide details), suggested in an email that he might have information about Seagate violating a non-disclosure agreement. Debra Steinberg of Cadwalader, who represented Convolve and MIT, followed up with Galloway. According to the engineer’s suit, Steinberg asked if he had his own lawyer. Galloway said he didn’t. He alleges that he subsequently received a call from the CEO of Convolve, who recommended that he retain Steven Wittels, then a name partner at the noted employment firm now known as Sanford Heisler.
Galloway met with Wittels, who determined that the engineer didn’t have a cause of action against Seagate. But Wittels also mentioned that Convolve’s lawyers wanted to meet Galloway, and, according to the complaint, later sent the engineer a retainer agreement that linked Wittels’s contingency fees to the Convolve litigation. Galloway alleges that, unbeknownst to him, Wittels was a personal friend of the Convolve CEO, and Convolve was secretly paying Galloway’s legal bills.
After supposedly receiving assurances from Steinberg that his identity would be kept secret, Galloway agreed to sign an affidavit attesting that Seagate misappropriated Convolve technology and destroyed evidence in the suit. As promised, Steinberg filed the affidavit under seal. But she disclosed Galloway’s name and role at Seagate in an accompanying brief that was not sealed. Moreover, reporters at The New York Times got wind of the filing and ran a story about Galloway’s allegations against Seagate.
Galloway claims that being outed as a whistle-blower destroyed his chance to find another job as an engineer in the tech industry. Days after the Times story ran, his complaint said, a job offer he’d received was rescinded, and since then, Galloway claims, potential employers in both the United States and Britain have been scared off by his reputation for blowing the whistle.