Vivint Solar sues COO who jumped ship for competitor

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12/30/2013

I wrote back in November about how Brendon Merkley, the COO of Vivint Solar, had left to work for SolarCity, Vivint Solar’s larger competitor.

Now, Vivint Solar—an affiliate of home automation/home security provider Vivint—is suing Merkley for breach of contract.

In the lawsuit, filed Dec. 4 in U.S. District Court in Utah, Vivint Solar said it is bringing the case to prevent Merkley “from violating his contractual non-competition, non-disclosure, and customer/vendor non-solicitation covenants by going to work for Solar City.” Vivint also wants to stop him from disclosing trade secrets and soliciting Vivint Solar’s employees to go and work for SolarCity, the lawsuit says.

Vivint Solar is seeking to have the court restrain Merkley from working for Solar City for the time period his non-competition covenants apply. Vivint Solar also is asking for damages.

However, in another twist, Merkley and Solar City, which is based in in San Mateo, Calif., are suing Vivint Solar in California state court, saying non-competition covenants Merkley signed with Vivint Solar are unenforceable under California law, according to Vivint Solar’s lawsuit.

Vivint Solar, based in Provo, Utah, was established in 2011 and quickly has become the nation’s second-largest provider of residential solar systems, employing the successfull door-knocking sales techniques of Vivint. However, Solar City, founded in 2006, is the largest home solar provider.

Merkley was one of the original executives of Vivint Solar and a board member, so had an in-depth knowledge of the company, according to the lawsuit. He was “the face and voice of Vivint Solar” with the public and at community events and industry functions, before starting his new job at Solar City on Dec. 1, the lawsuit says.

Merkley tried to recruit a Vivint Solar VP to join him at SolarCity before he left Vivint Solar, but the VP refused, the lawsuit says.

Merkley was not the first Vivint Solar executive to bail for SolarCity. Former Vivint Solar CEO Tanguy Serra also joined SolarCity last spring.

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