Senior global HSBC executives were aware of an alleged plan to lure former Silicon Valley Bank employees and their trade secrets from their new jobs at First Citizens Bank, the Raleigh, North Carolina-based lender alleged in a lawsuit Wednesday.
First Citizens filed an amended complaint in federal court alleging that David Sabow, who ran SVB’s healthcare and technology arm before moving to HSBC, met with HSBC CEO Noel Quinn and other executives and hatched a plan to poach his former SVB co-workers to launch a similar business at HSBC.
First Citizens, which acquired SVB upon its collapse in March 2023, initially sued HSBC for more than $1 billion in May, alleging Sabow was the mastermind behind so-called Project Colony, a scheme to bring 42 former SVB employees and their trade secrets to HSBC.
Those trade secrets, according to the new complaint, include data on profits within SVB’s life sciences and technology practice; individual employee performance, potential, and skillsets; and “entensive compilations” of relevant client information.
Now, the bank alleges both Quinn and Michael Roberts, who leads HSBC’s Americas unit, knew of the plan, along with Global Banking and Markets CEO Greg Guyett, Chief Legal Officer Bob Hoyt and HSBC’s U.K. chief Ian Stuart.
In court filings, HSBC said Sabow’s efforts to recruit his former colleagues were “legitimate and predated First Citizens' takeover of the bank,” Reuters reported.
The British lender sought to dismiss the suit, but a judge decided in January it could move forward so long as First Citizens filed an amended complaint, because the initial one was “confusing and need[ed] to be cleaned up.”
“HSBC is strongly committed to the innovation banking space and to our employees, and will continue to vigorously defend against the lawsuit brought by First Citizens,” the bank told Banking Dive in a statement.
A spokesperson for First Citizens said that “[t]he amended complaint describes in detail why First Citizens brought this case. We will continue to pursue the case vigorously to protect the interests of our customers, employees and shareholders.”