A well-known real estate agent from Noosa petitioned the Supreme Court to search the offices and homes of his former employees who had started their own businesses.
Hillsurf PTY LTD, trading as Dowling and Neylan Real Estate, said it had evidence that five former employees copied confidential customer information to aid in starting a new Noosa Estate Agents company.
Dowling and Neylan’s director Danny Neylan outlined his dealings with the former employees in an affidavit filed in February requesting permission for a search team to visit the Noosa estate agent office and the home of agents Angela Wood, Samantha Plummer and Browse Kelsie Melville.
The matter was temporarily flagged as « registration only » on Wednesday and Thursday last week pending an urgent listing after the daily asked Mr Neylan to comment on the matter, which Noosa real estate agents are unfamiliar with at the time were.
Dowling and Neylan filed an amended motion Thursday before Judge Martin Burns ordered five Noosa Estate Agents employees to provide an affidavit to their former employer.
They had seven days to keep and provide the details and location of the digital devices, files, and things requested by Dowling and Neylan.
Nathan Howie, director of Noosa Estate Agents, said Monday that he had been made aware of the lawsuit but would not make any further comments.
Mr Neylan said in his affidavit that he became concerned after a series of resignations between August and November last year.
« I asked Nathan what he was up to for the job, » Neylan said in his affidavit.
« He said words like ‘I don’t know, I have no plans for the future’. »
Mr Neylan alleged the exchange took place on August 27th and conducted a search of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission to determine that Noosa real estate agents had previously been established with Mr Howie listed as sole director and secretary.
Ms. Melville and Scott Cowley were the next to step down on September 16, before Mr. Neylan heard rumors of a new agency.
He said he wasn’t initially concerned because he thought the trio might just promote their new business instead of acting before a lock-up period expires.
Mr. Neylan said he then discovered a listing under the names of Mr. Howie and Mr. Cowley in October.
« I knew Scott was working on this listing while at DNRE, » Neylan said in his affidavit.
« At that point I was alerted that Nathan, Scott, and Kelsie were not adhering to their hold-back period.
Mr Neylan said on his affidavit that the five agents now worked for Noosa Estate and were using the same phone numbers as they were working for him.
Mr Neylan said his employees had access to a customer relationship management system called Agent Box.
The cloud system saved all contact data and property information of current and potential customers, recorded and saved leads from contacts, sent e-mails and managed trust accounts.
Employees also had access to a server at work that stored all of their sales files, current offers, research data, and archived forms.
An argument filed in February alleged that Dowling and Neylan were suing Noosa Estate Agents for allegedly printing or downloading 3,942 Hillsurf customer records from Agent Box on June 24, 2020.
« This was a remarkable amount of client records as all of the applicant’s staff (including Ms. Melville) only downloaded 1,366 more over the course of the year from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020, » according to the argument submitted by Axia Litigation Lawyers specified.
In the outline of the argument, it was stated that other reasons were that Mr. Howie was running a potential rental listing of a property that Dowling and Neylan had just sold to another competing agency, that the former employees were deriving the update of the Dowling and Neylan’s market surveillance table on July 30, and that Mr. Neylan was unable to find printed notes, diaries, and forms that he believed were left behind by the former employees.
The outline also stated that Noosa real estate agents listed or sold 10 properties for clients who had previous contact with Dowling and Neylan.
Court documents checked by the daily show that Dowling and Neylan filed an ex parte search warrant in February to obtain critical evidence of the trial against Noosa Estate Agents.
The outline stated that proceedings would be directed against the five employees for alleged breach of contractual fiduciary duty, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of statutory duty under the Corporations Act 2001, and breach of confidentiality.
The filing stated that the Noosa Estate Agents trial was aimed at knowingly advocating or facilitating, facilitating, or facilitating the former employees’ fiduciary violations and / or violations of the Corporations Act.
Dowling and Neylan had originally asked the court to allow two lawyers, an independent computer expert, and a business analyst to search the new agency’s office and three apartments.
The outline said the search team would see, remove, or obtain records of things or information.
The order delivered by Justice Burns on Thursday did not specify a search of the Noosa real estate agent’s office or homes, but instead required the agency and five listed employees to retain the digital and printed files requested by Dowling and Neylan.
Mr Neylan said he could not comment on the matter while it was in court.
His agency, focused on the luxury end of the Noosa market, was founded in 1976 and is a household name in the Noosa area.
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