Florida augmented reality company Magic Leap filed a lawsuit last week against its current senior director of global security Todd Keil, alleging that he is trying to “extort millions of dollars” with “frivolous legal claims” against the company.
In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Eastern Texas, Magic Leap alleges that Keil delivered a draft lawsuit against the company in December. Magic Leap’s lawsuit documents and attempts to head off Keil’s alleged claims, which include violations of the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act stemming from the unanticipated arrival of several Microsoft HoloLens devices at company offices. Magic Leap also attempts to discredit alleged violations of U.S. Export Administration Regulations and International Traffic in Arms Regulations surrounding its internship program, which in 2016 included several interns from Iran and China, and its dealings with a London-based company that was acquired by a Chinese firm with ties to the military.’
In its lawsuit, Magic Leap alleges that Keil is ‘disgruntled’ and pursuing these claims not because the company has broken any laws, but to cover for his poor performance since joining the company in 2015.
“Since his arrival at Magic Leap, Mr. Keil has failed to perform his job duties with the dedication and degree of competence any employer would expect from its employees, and that its employees would expect from one another,” according to Magic Leap’s lawsuit. “Sensing a potential termination of his employment, he has baselessly asserted that he is the victim of retaliation for raising various issues with his superior over a year ago that fell within the scope of his duties as a Senior Director of Global Security.”
We’ve reached out to Magic Leap for more details and Keil for a response, and we will update this post if we hear back.
Magic Leap opened an office in Seattle last year, looking to take advantage of the area’s growing clout as a virtual reality hub. In its lawsuit, the company says it has more than 1,400 employees spread across facilities in Florida, Texas, Washington State and California, as well as several remote locations.
Magic Leap has raised more than $1.9 billion since it was founded in 2011 from heavy-hitters such as Alibaba and Google.
In December, the secretive startup came out of hiding with its first ever product: a headset with a portable computer pack and controller called Magic Leap One. In the lawsuit the company said it is in the “prelaunch stage of product development and testing,” and is “working hard to bring that product to the market as soon as possible.”
Magic Leap One is built for developers, designers and creatives, rather than consumers at this point, similar to Microsoft’s HoloLens. That might be why the un-anticipated arrival of several HoloLens devices at Magic Leap offices caused concern.
In the lawsuit, Magic Leap details how two employees who had “previously applied to participate in Microsoft’s developer program were invited to purchase, and lawfully obtained, two HoloLens devices each.” A Magic Leap business partner obtained and sent over a fifth device. These actions occurred unbeknownst to Magic Leap management, and when the devices arrived on the premises they were confiscated and returned.
Magic Leap claims Keil alleged that the company “rejected his recommendation that all of the HoloLens devices be confiscated and returned.”
“In reality, Mr. Keil received prompt instructions from Magic Leap management, on its own initiative, that he should work with others to recover and return all the devices, and he was tasked with physical custody of the seized devices until their return could be arranged. Significantly, Mr. Keil has not alleged nor can he allege that Magic Leap retained any of the five (5) HoloLens devices or any other facts to support his claim that Magic Leap violated the DTSA.”
It doesn’t appear that Keil has filed the lawsuit the company details in its complaint. The allegations are referred to in Magic Leap’s lawsuit as part of a “draft complaint.” GeekWire was unable to locate any legal documents filed by Keil against Magic Leap.
Magic Leap claims that Keil and his attorney filed an age discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well.
Keil still appears to be employed by the company, but Magic Leap is looking to assert its right to terminate him. In its lawsuit, the company asked the court for resolution of the “legal challenge posed by Mr. Keil regarding its alleged liability, including its right to terminate Mr. Keil’s employment without such action being deemed a violation of law.”
Magic Leap denigrated Keil’s performance at the company throughout the 15-page complaint. He came to Magic Leap in 2015 after leaving a position at the Department of Homeland Security in 2012.
“Mr. Keil’s performance in 2017 was so lackluster, and his lack of any sense of urgency and commitment so apparent, that certain co-workers began to wonder whether Mr. Keil actually wanted to be terminated,” Magic Leap wrote. “From their perspective, he was simply ‘phoning it in,’ which was a posture sharply at odds with the corporate culture of Magic Leap. One example of Mr. Keil’s detachment in 2017 was his failure to even provide input into his own 2017 performance review.”