Judge pauses Optum's suit seeking to protect trade secrets

A Massachusetts federal judge has paused a lawsuit filed by UnitedHealth subsidiary Optum seeking to protect its trade secrets from the healthcare venture launched by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase.

Four things to know:

1. The federal lawsuit, filed in Massachusetts District Court in Boston Jan. 16, aims to stop former Optum executive David Smith from divulging confidential information he allegedly obtained before being hired by the Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan venture in December 2018.

2. Optum requested a temporary restraining order that would prohibit Mr. Smith from disclosing Optum's confidential information to benefit the Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan venture. In response, Mr. Smith requested to have the case immediately ordered to arbitration on all issues, including whether the court has the authority to issue a temporary restraining order before compelling arbitration on the merits.

3. At a hearing Jan. 30, the court found it had the authority to issue a TRO before compelling arbitration, and the court provided the reasons for its finding in a memorandum and order issued Feb. 5. Mr. Smith appealed the order to the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and requested the case be put on hold during the appeal.

4. The court granted Mr. Smith's motion to stay proceedings in the case. "However, in view of the contention that Optum will suffer ongoing irreparable harm during the pendency of the appeal, the court suggests that the First Circuit decide de novo whether the stay should be continued or lifted, or attempt to decide the appeal expeditiously," the order stated.

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