Secretariat sues rival HKA for alleged fake Glassdoor review

11 March 2021 3 min. read
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Secretariat, an Atlanta-based expert witness and disputes consultancy, has filed a lawsuit in California alleging rival firm HKA posted a fake review on to damage Secretariat’s reputation.

The lawsuit was filed in the US district court for the Central District of California under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as California laws against defamation, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, and unfair competition.

The suit alleges Toby Hunt, partner and chief business development officer & head of Europe at HKA, posed as a fake employee of Secretariat to make damaging comments about Secretariat on the popular employee workplace review site Glassdoor. Secretariat’s lawsuit alleges the fake review was part of a wider smear campaign intended to damage the firm’s reputation and market position.

The Glassdoor review in question was posted in July 2020 and professed concerns about Secretariat’s “ethics” and “greed,” and that the firm’s reputation had been tarnished by a recent court case. The review also gave a “disapprove” rating to Secretariat’s CEO.

Secretariat sues rival HKA for alleged fake Glassdoor review

The lawsuit alleges the review was written by Toby Hunt. Secretariat says an investigation linked the post to an email address connected to Hunt and an IP address in his hometown in England. Glassdoor removed the post for going against the site’s terms of use.

Joseph M. Terry of Williams & Connolly, the attorney acting for Secretariat, on Monday said, “Secretariat filed a complaint today alleging in detail how Toby Hunt on behalf of HKA resorted to fraudulent and defamatory conduct against my client in an effort to destroy its reputation, sabotage its business, and interfere with its prospective business relations. We intend to prove that this was done with the goal of damaging Secretariat and improving HKA’s own competitive position, as its corporate parent, Bridgepoint Advisers, prepared to sell HKA.”

The suit says the fake review was part of a wider campaign that included public social media posts designed to create concern among Secretariat’s employees and clients about the firm’s integrity and ethics. HKA then allegedly attempted to leverage the campaign to poach experts from Secretariat’s Los Angeles office.

“We are aware of the filing made against HKA by Secretariat," a spokesperson from HKA said. "The claims are baseless and entirely without merit. We intend to respond robustly and present all the relevant facts to the Court.

"The comments were made by a lone HKA employee online and are subject to an investigation. They were published without HKA’s knowledge. HKA is proud of the ethical approach we take to all our work.”

Secretariat and HKA both specialize in providing expert witness and litigation consulting to the construction industry. Secretariat is based in Atlanta and has approximately 160 consultants across offices in the US, UK, UAE, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

HKA is based in London and is the larger consulting firm, with offices in the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia-Pacific. HKA has approximately 1,000 employees.