Legal Ethics

Toyota Proclaims Victory, Says Arbitrator Ruled Ex-Counsel Must Pay $2.6M for Whistle-Blowing

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A former in-house lawyer for Toyota Motor Corp. has been ordered by an arbitrator to pay the automaker $2.5 million plus $100,000 in punitive damages for publicly revealing confidential information, according to a company press release.

Although attorney Dimitrios Biller portrayed himself as a whistle-blower informing the public about his ex-employer’s alleged withholding of information relevant to rollover litigation, the arbitrator found for the company on all counts, according to Toyota. They included breach of contract, conversion and computer access contrary to statute, reports Bloomberg.

Biller, who represented himself pro se after a disagreement with previous counsel about whether to take the case to trial, could not immediately be reached for comment, the news agency says.

The case was initially brought by Biller in federal court in Los Angeles in 2009, where he asserted claims of wrongful termination, defamation, infliction of emotional distress, fraud and racketeering against Toyota. However, a federal judge held that a 2007 severance agreement with Toyota, for which Biller worked from 2003 to 2007, required him to arbitrate.

The arbitrator dismissed the racketeering claim and ruled against Biller on the defamation and fraud claims, according to Toyota.

Earlier coverage: “Ex-Toyota Lawyer Explains Split with His Counsel: I Wanted to Go to Trial” “Ruling Clears Way for Testimony by Ex-Toyota Lawyer on Hidden Documents” “Arbitrator: Crime-Fraud Exception Lets Ex-Toyota Counsel Use Privileged Docs in Whistle-Blow Case”

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