Wells Fargo hired Bengtson in their wealth management department. Part of the employment contract contained a non-solicitation and a nondisclosure agreement. Bengtson left Wells Fargo to join Merrill Lynch. He immediately began soliciting Wells Fargo clients and disclosing information to Merrill Lynch. Wells Fargo brought suit for breach of contract and trade secret misappropriation.
The court had no trouble granting the TRO, but its take on Bengtson’s defense is interesting. Bengtson argued that Wells Fargo should be barred by the doctrine of unclean hands because they encouraged him to bring over client lists when they hired him from Piper Jaffray. The court rejected this argument, holding that Wells Fargo must have been guilty of unconscionable conduct in their employment contract with Bengtson for unclean hands to apply.