By: Kirsty Johnson
A legal stoush between high-profile education start-up Crimson Consulting and its former employee has been settled in a secret agreement.
Lawyers for Crimson, founded by 22-year-old millionaire Jamie Beaton and Dunedin businesswoman Samantha Berry, appeared in the High Court at Auckland to discuss the case this morning.
Afterwards, Berry’s lawyer confirmed there had been a settlement but details would be kept confidential.
The parties have been locked in a messy court battle for more than a year – with Crimson attempting to keep the case out of the media by applying for strict suppression orders – originally even asking for news articles to be taken offline.
The case centred on claims and counter-claims about the purchase of another tutoring company, UniTutor.
Crimson filed a suit last October against UniTutor’s founder Samantha Berry for a breach of her contract. Berry then filed a counter claim, saying, in fact, Crimson still owed her money after buying her out in 2015.
She also filed a separate suit against Crimson in the High Court, alleging a repudiation of sale.
Her affidavits contain an extensive history of what she alleges were the events leading up to the sale of her shares to Crimson, and of the events which occurred when she was its employee.
A previous judgment had detailed how Crimson did not want that information public.
Crimson said Berry’s evidence contained significant irrelevant, commercially sensitive, confidential and disparaging information, hence its application for suppression.
The company, valued at more that $200 million, said it wished to ensure any published stories reflected positively on Crimson, as its reputation was important.
It argued that therefore the publication of commercially sensitive information and “unfair criticisms” should be prohibited. Not to do so would significantly tarnish relationships with investors and clients, it said.
It said the affidavits included “potentially damaging allegations” about matters that were not relevant, which would require consideration at a substantive hearing.
Berry’s lawyers argued that the commercially sensitive information should be protected only if publication would cause obvious commercial harm, but that the evidence did not cross that threshold in the present case.
Embarrassment was not enough, they said.
The judge eventually dismissed the application to suppress names, but allowed an interim order suppressing details of commercially sensitive evidence until the substantive hearing.
However, following the settlement, it is likely the bulk of the allegations will now remain permanently suppressed.
Source: NZ Herald