ILFC sues Udvar-Hazy and Air Lease Corp, alleging theft of trade secrets

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Published: April 27, 2012

International Lease Finance Corp. (ILFC) and its parent American International Group (AIG) have filed a civil lawsuit in a Los Angeles court against Air Lease Corp. (ALC) and its chairman and CEO, Steven Udvar-Hazy, as well as a number of other top ALC executives, seeking damages that it said may reach “several hundreds of millions” of dollars “or more.”

ILFC said in the court filing that Udvar-Hazy, the founder and CEO of the aircraft lessor until his 2010 departure (ATW Daily News, Feb. 8, 2010) to launch ALC, stole “confidential trade secret information” and used it to quickly establish ALC as an ILFC rival.

ILFC claimed in the lawsuit, “Before resigning their employment, [Udvar-Hazy and fellow] former ILFC executives engaged in massive downloading and theft of ILFC’s confidential trade secret information (several thousand electronic files). These files were then loaded en masse onto ALC’s servers. Forensic analysis shows further that many of these files became the blueprint for customer communications, contracts, pricing, marketing and other strategies upon which ALC built its business.”

ALC rejected the lawsuit as “baseless,” saying in a statement, “Unable to compete effectively and perceiving Air Lease as a growing threat, AIG/ILFC has now resorted to a baseless trade secrets lawsuit that Air Lease will vigorously contest and defeat.”

ALC has a portfolio of more than 100 aircraft, launched an IPO in 2011 (ATW Daily News, April 5, 2010) and Udvar-Hazy continues to have huge influence on commercial aircraft manufacturers. ILFC, however, said this success is owing to its claim that Udvar-Hazy “unlawfully stole this business from ILFC.”

ILFC said in a statement, “We regret having to file this suit, but the defendants’ misconduct left us no choice but to go to court to protect our rights and the rights of our shareholders, including our largest shareholder, the American taxpayer.” The Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the US government spent more than $ 180 billion bailing out an insolvent AIG in 2008 and 2009, and the US government is still its largest shareholder.

Before departing ILFC, Udvar-Hazy attempted to put together a group to buy the lessor from AIG, but ultimately decided parting ways was the best option. AIG acquired ILFC in 1990, 17 years after Udvar-Hazy launched the Los Angeles-based company.

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