Saturday, December 20, 2014

TD Bank: Vernon Hill stole our story: Update

Who owns the Commerce Bank story?

TD Bank: Vernon Hill stole our story: Update

UPDATE with statement from Hill's lawyer/  TD Bank, the Toronto company that bought the former Commerce Bank of Marlton five years ago, has sued Commerce founder Vernon Hill, claiming he stole his own manuscript - which TD said it took over when it bought Commerce - to publish his own book, Fans! Not Customers: How to Create Growth Companies in a No-Growth World."

The copyright infringement suit, filed in US District Court in Camden by TD lawyer William Tambussi - who also represented Commerce when Hill was the boss - claims Hill copied a 2007 manuscript he left behind when he left the bank for his new book.

The bank accuses Hill of causing "irreparable harm" by publishing Fans! Not Customers, which describes Hill concepts like "retail-tainment," or hiring jugglers to perform at dance openings; how to develop a sense of "Wow!" among workers and customers through promotions and parties; and practices like allowing dogs into bank branches, to attract pet owners in animal-crazy neighborhoods like Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square and Manhattan's Upper West Side. 

UPDATE:  Hill’s legal counsel, Howard Hogan of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, sends this statement:  "TD Bank’s copyright infringement suit against Mr. Hill is only the bank’s latest anti-competitive effort to silence Mr. Hill.

"The idea that copyright law can be used to prevent Mr. Hill from telling his own story is ludicrous. The book that Mr. Hill has published is a book about Metro Bank and Mr. Hill’s business philosophies—ideas that he has been expressing publicly for decades. TD Bank does not and cannot own ideas.

"This lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to extract concessions on the millions of dollars that TD Bank owes Mr. Hill in an entirely separate lawsuit, where TD Bank has no defense."

EARLIER: TD says it acquired a draft of Hill's planned book when the bank acquired Commerce assets, a year after Hill stepped down as CEO under pressure from bank regulators who had been investigating bank contracts to firms controlled by Hill and his wife. The investigation was later dropped without charges. 

The book's forward is by Tom Peters, author of the "In Search of Excellence" business series. Peters compares Hill's bank to Cirque de Soleil, the acrobatic troupe, as an example of a near-perfect organization that spends freely on people and facilities, avoids damaging cost-cutting, and focuses on customers. CNBC financial screamer Jim Cramer, a suburban Philly native, also endorses Hill in the book. The publisher is Profile Books, a unit of publisher Viking.

Though it yielded him a fortune of over $400 milion, Hill opposed the sale to TD, splitting with board members he had himself chosen. He has since sued the buyer for damages; that case drags on. Hill, now head of Britain's Metro Bank and an investor in Pennsylvania's Metro and First Republic banks, and publisher Profile, say he has the rights to his own story.

Read the lawsuit - and excerpts from Hill's book - at American Banker here:
http://cdn.americanbanker.com/media/pdfs/PDFComplaint.PDF
Case is US District of NJ Civil Action No. 12-07188 

Larry Platt praises Vernon Hill and his book here:
http://articles.philly.com/2012-11-26/news/35348837_1_commerce-bank-vernon-hill-first-new-bank/2

Dan Rottenberg pokes holes in Hill's legend here:
http://www.broadstreetreview.com/index.php/main/article/vernon_hills_dubious_financial_visions/

More in American Banker here:
http://www.americanbanker.com/people/td-bank-sues-vernon-hill-over-commerce-bank-book-1054561-1.html

and in Canada's Financial Post here:
http://business.financialpost.com/2012/11/27/book-battle-erupts-as-td-takes-u-s-banking-entrepreneur-to-court/

Article I wrote last year on Vernon and Shirley Hill's London venture, MetroBank:
http://articles.philly.com/2011-12-25/business/30556836_1_royal-bank-new-england-rains

Joseph N. DiStefano
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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