IBM is taking the former head of its Thailand operation, Patama Chantaruck, to court to claw back $470,000 in benefits it believes she owes after going to work for a rival and – allegedly – breaking the terms of a non-compete clause.
Chantaruck went to work for Big Blue in October 2018, joining as country general manager of Thailand and veep of Indo China Expansion. IBM said in its lawsuit [PDF], filed in a New York federal court, that she had “only a few peers of similar ranking in the Asia Pacific region.”
On joining IBM, Chantaruck entered into a binding Long-Term Performance Plan (LTPP) in which she received equity awards in return for agreeing to “safeguard IBM’s Confidential Information and not engage in certain proscribed competitive conduct within specific time periods,” according to Big Blue in its lawsuit.
As part of this contractual policy, IBM was allowed to “cancel and rescind” any awards if it found Chantaruck was involved in “detrimental activity.” This was defined in the LTPP as including “accepting employment with competitors within restricted time periods” – which the complaint refers to as “rescission periods,” according to the IT giant.
The exec resigned from IBM Thailand effective February 28, 2022. From April 11, 2022 – which was “within the rescission periods” – she had moved to a “highly similar” role at Accenture, IBM complained.
IBM regards Accenture as a rival.
“IBM and Accenture entities compete particularly in the information, digitalization, and consulting spaces, both globally and within the Asia-Pacific region,” Big Blue’s complaint added, saying Accenture is IBM’s “largest competitor by revenue” in professional services.
Chantaruck has remained the country managing director of Accenture Thailand since.
“By accepting her position within Accenture Thailand during a restricted time period, Defendant violated her obligations to IBM under the plan,” according to the complaint. IBM demanded repayment of the monetary benefits but so far, Chantaruck has “refused and failed to pay awards totaling $470,220.906.”
As such, Chantaruck is in breach of her contract, the complaint alleged. In addition to the monetary payments made by IBM, the exec would be required to pay all costs and expenses IBM incurs in relation to this litigation, should IBM’s case in America prevail.
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