Proceedings began at the District Court of South Australia yesterday morning between Toop&Toop’s solicitors and legal representatives for Arabella Hooper of Harris Real Estate, the result of a 3 year dispute between Hooper and her previous employer.
Tom Cox SC, barrister for Toop&Toop, said in his submissions that ‘Customer lead information is the most confidential information an agent can have,’, alleging that over 700 pieces of confidential client data was taken from the Toop&Toop CRM system before Hooper’s employment was terminated.
It was also alleged that this data was then purged from the system by Hooper and several records tampered with by marking ‘hot’ and ‘warm’ leads as ‘cold’. This, Cox claimed, culminated in 39 clients being unfairly taken from Toop&Toop and listing with Harris Real Estate, including several clients that signed Harris branded documents with Hooper despite her still being employed at Toop&Toop.
Sam Abbott SC, barrister for the defence, disputed some of the hundreds of pieces of evidence tendered including vague emails from potential clients asking if there was ‘…any news?’ and Hooper replying ‘Not a whisper,’ and, ‘D-Day is Wednesday’. Abbott disputed it could not be definitively proved that this email was a client who was being kept waiting to list their property before Hooper changed agencies.
Cox also tendered documents that he claimed proved Hooper had been planning a move and working with Harris for several weeks before resigning, including emails sent to her personal email account from her Toop&Toop email address with data and notes on clients.
Greg Moulton, CEO of Harris at the time of alleged incidents along with other members of Harris management staff were brought into the spotlight during the hearing, with evidence tendered including emails between Hooper & Harris management around the time of the breach.
Moulton declared in one email that Harris had no confidential client data in their possession when Toop management refused to pay commissions owed to Hooper unless she returned the data to them.
The first hearing was attended by Anthony Toop, along with his daughters Suzannah (CEO of Toop&Toop) & Genevieve. Neither Arabella Hooper or Phil Harris were present at the hearing.
The case continues.