The doctor being sued by Mayo Clinic for allegedly stealing trade secrets has resigned from his job at Mayo competitor, Quest Diagnostics.
Dr. Franklin R. Cockerill III, the former CEO of the for-profit Mayo Medical Labs, resigned from his position as vice president and chief laboratory officer with Quest on Wednesday, according to Nancy Brostrom Vollertsen, a Minneapolis attorney representing him.
His acceptance of that job on Oct. 1 spurred Mayo Clinic to file a lawsuit against Cockerill alleging misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of contract. Cockerill officially worked at Quest only from Oct. 1 to Oct. 14. On Oct. 14, Olmsted County Judge Robert Birnbaum granted a temporary restraining order preventing him from working, because he could cause "irreparable harm" to Mayo Clinic.
Quest filed a motion to withdraw from the case on Tuesday, since it "…No longer has a 'substantial interest' in this litigation that justifies or requires its continued participation." Mayo Clinic issued a statement Thursday saying it had settled with Quest in the wake of Cockerill's resignation.
"Mayo is not pursuing any claims against Quest. We continue to pursue our remaining claims (against Cockerill) to protect our confidential trade secrets against improper disclosure," according to the statement released by Bryan Anderson.
While Quest is no longer a factor in the case, the Mayo Clinic's lawsuit again Cockerill continues to move forward. A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 22 in Olmsted County Court.
The lawsuit alleges that Cockerill covertly accepted the job in June, but he told Mayo Clinic that he was retiring at the end of September to help his 85-year-old mother run her fertilizer business in Nebraska. From June to September, he continued to work at Mayo Medical Labs, attending confidential meetings and negotiating contracts. The complaint filed by Mayo Clinic also claims that Cockerill was in communication with Quest throughout his final months and he left with clinic-owned memory sticks with data downloaded from his work station.
On Oct. 1, he stepped into the position of vice president and chief laboratory officer with New Jersey-based Quest Diagnostics Inc., a multibillion-dollar public company.
Cockerill released a statement through his attorney in response to Mayo allegations that said, "He opted for early retirement at the Mayo Clinic's invitation and is not subject to any non-compete or other agreement that would limit his activities after leaving Mayo."
He filed an affidavit in November, which was later withdrawn, that stated that Cockerill was "confused and disappointed" by Mayo Clinic's legal action against him. It also stated that he did not tell Mayo Clinic leaders about his plans, because he "feared retribution against himself and his family."
Mayo Clinic responded that Cockerill's case was different than other executives who have left to work for competitors.
"… We understand that our staff members move to other organizations, and, when they do so in a transparent manner, we can manage any conflicts-of-interest during their transition, and we can protect our confidential information and trade secrets," stated Mayo's Anderson by email. "Dr. Cockerill was not transparent and did not report his conflict of interest."