It took less than 30 minutes for a jury to award the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council (MSMC) and the Mid-America Research and Development Foundation (MRDF) $602,945 in their case against a former executive who profited from suspect contracts for valuable soybean technologies. The verdict came down June 15 in Jackson County, Missouri, after a three-day trial.
At issue in the litigation were two purported contracts between MSMC and AgBorn Genetics, a company headed by Alex Stemme, MSMC’s former director of identity preservation. The lawsuit filed by MSMC alleged that at the same time he was working in a top leadership position at MSMC, Stemme was running AgBorn Genetics and had contracts executed with his company regarding the licensing of MSMC’s proprietary soybean technology.
In the years between the contracts’ purported executions and Stemme’s resignations from MSMC in 2013, AgBorn paid some royalties to MSMC, even as it contracted with third parties to sell modified soybean seeds containing the licensed technology. (In 2015, Thompson Coburn’s intellectual property team secured patent protections for a high oleic proprietary soybean — developed by MSMC — that contains increased levels of oleic acid and made even healthier a food that already provides high amounts of protein and little fat.) Discovery in the lawsuit uncovered hundreds of thousands of unreported sales and royalties.
On May 20, Jackson County Circuit Judge Charles McKenzie granted a key summary judgment motion to MSMC, ruling the two contracts were unenforceable for lack of essential terms.
“This is such an important case for soybean farmers,” said MSMC chairman and Lafayette County soybean farmer David Lueck. “We take our responsibility to manage growers’ soybean checkoff dollars very seriously and will continue to take any necessary steps to ensure farmers receive the benefit of their investments in the checkoff. There’s no excuse for anything less.”
MSMC and MRDF were represented at trial and throughout the case by Chris Hohn serving as lead trial counsel, assisted by Matt Bober and Patrick Morales-Doyle. Many other Thompson Coburn team members provided critical support on issues related to intellectual property and employment matters.
Kansas City Star
Missouri Lawyers Media
Jefferson City News Tribune
Although we would like to hear from you, we cannot represent you until we know that doing so will not create a conflict of interest. Also, we cannot treat unsolicited information as confidential. Accordingly, please do not send us any information about any matter that may involve you until you receive a written statement from us that we represent you (an ‘engagement letter’).
By clicking the ‘ACCEPT’ button, you agree that we may review any information you transmit to us. You recognize that our review of your information, even if you submitted it in a good faith effort to retain us, and, further, even if you consider it confidential, does not preclude us from representing another client directly adverse to you, even in a matter where that information could and will be used against you. Please click the ‘ACCEPT’ button if you understand and accept the foregoing statement and wish to proceed.