Two former employees of a Danville asset management firm were awarded nearly $3.7 million after their ex-boss allegedly defamed them when they left his firm to start their own company.
A three-member securities arbitration panel ruled that John Valentine, owner of Danville’s Valentine Capital Asset Management Inc., must compensate former employees Corey Casilio and William Leitch for defamatory accusations he reportedly made against them after the two men left Valentine in 2011.
The three independent public arbitrators in the case awarded Casilio and Leitch $2.5 million in punitive damages as well as an additional $800,000 in compensatory damages, ruling that Valentine must also pay the nearly $340,000 in attorney’s fees Casilio and Leitch amassed in bringing their suit.
Arbitrators found that Valentine launched a retaliatory campaign against Casilio Leitch Investments of Walnut Creek after his former employees ventured out on their own, going so far as to plant false accusations of fraud, creating false evidence against them, and even coercing a client to manipulate Google search engine results to highlight defamatory accusations against Casilio Leitch for the purpose of deterring clients from doing business with the offshoot firm.
Valentine has denied the charges and told a Reuters reporter that he will seek to get the award vacated in court, telling Reuters that the arbitration panel was not qualified to make a ruling in the case.