The case is set to go to trial a year from now.
Judge Alan Fine's ruling
In granting the injunction Wednesday, Judge Alan Fine of the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida found Silversea has a 'substantial likelihood of success' on the merits of the case.
He said: 'There is ample evidence that Lira received confidential business information and trade secrets during the course of his nearly nine years at Silversea, five years of which he served as a senior executive. And Lira does not dispute that he removed Silversea documents for his own benefit and without permission.'
Under the temporary injunction, Lira is temporarily prohibited from working with or for Crystal, A&K USA, A&K Travel Group or any related business. He's also forbidden to solicit or influence any Siversea employees, customers, customer prospects, agents or partners and from disclosing or using the information he had access to as a Silversea employee.
The order also states that Crystal and A&K USA are prohibited from accessing or using the Silversea information.
Joined Crystal in August after eight years at Silversea
Lira joined Crystal as SVP global sales & guest services in August after eight years with Silversea, ultimately as VP passenger services and sales support.
Silversea alleged that on July 4, the day Lira resigned, he copied hundreds of confidential documents from his Silversea laptop to a personal USB device and copied additional confidential documents between then and his last day on July 22. These included information relating to individual employees, employee performance, corporate budgets and forecasts, reservations, headcounts, meeting presentations, sales guidelines, organizational charts and information regarding revenue, costs and payroll expenses for sales teams.
Silversea further testified Lira emailed confidential, proprietary and trade secret information from his Silversea email to his personal email that included salary information and a compensation incentive formula for team members he managed.
As well, Lira allegedly took names and contact information for specific vendors, travel agents and customers.
According to testimony, Lira in a Jan. 23 hearing 'admitted that he "took these documents to provide [himself] with a reference point in developing a direct sales channel which is an area [he has] expertise in" and one he was "developing for Crystal."'
Two-year non-competition agreement
Silversea's non-competition agreement states that for two years after termination, the employee is prohibited from competing with the employer and 'working in the same or substantially similar luxury cruise line business (comparable to the employer) ...'
Crystal took issue with whether it meets that standard, drawing differences such as that with just two ships, it is much smaller than Silversea, and it doesn't have expedition ships or all-inclusive fares.
The judge agreed the companies are different but said they are not dissimilar for competitive purposes.
Fine also cited an employment agreement Lira signed with Crystal that contained its own non-competition provision prohibiting him for a one-year period to 'directly or indirectly engage or be concerned or interested in any business carried on in competition with the business of luxury or ultra-luxury cruises with a fleet of at least 600 berths and vessels operated in the Mediterranean, Baltic, Caribbean, Arctic and Antarctica ...'
Concerning solicitation of employees, the judge cited several instances where Lira was allegedly involved directly or indirectly in hiring Silversea employees on behalf of A&K USA and Crystal.
A&K Group assessing its legal options
In a statement to Seatrade Cruise News, Cristina Levis, CEO of A&K Travel Group, said the company 'accepts Judge Fine’s ruling but fully disagrees with its content as it is contrary to the evidence presented. A two year non-compete is completely unreasonable especially when your boss has, and all your former bosses had, a one year non-compete.'
Levis continued: 'We are assessing our legal options on this matter as well as other matters involving the alleged tortious interference of Silversea with our business.
'The actions taken by Silversea speaks volumes,' Levis added. 'We have been bombarded by requests from their employees looking for new employment and it has nothing to do with the actions of Mr. Lira.'
A Silversea spokesperson said it's company policy not to comment on pending litigation.
Royal Caribbean Group said: 'We are pleased with the court’s decision to issue a temporary injunction and protect Silversea and Royal Caribbean’s contractual rights. Given that legal proceedings remain pending, we decline further comment at this time.'