Boo hiss! Portland Food Dude is reporting this morning that natural market New Seasons has lost their case to bar internal documents from being released to competitor Whole Foods. As I noted a few weeks ago, New Seasons is locked in a legal battle with Whole Foods and the Federal Trade Commission over Whole Foods’ violation of FTC laws in the purchase of Northwest market chain Wild Oats. New Seasons was subpoenaed in early October by Whole Foods, requesting everything from internal documents discussing the merger to documents discussing ‘plans to renovate or improve stores…’.
New Seasons’ CEO Brian Rohter blogged about his subpoena shock on December 1st:
When I received this subpoena my immediate reaction was disbelief. I was confident there was no way our legal system would force us to give our private business records to one of our competitors. It looks like I may have been wrong about that.
Losing this case is certainly a blow to local stores everywhere. Releasing such confidential documents to a competitive giant, particularly one who’s been known to play dirty, will be devastating to the New Seasons market.
It takes away the level playing field, creates an unnecessary risk for our business and has the potential to have a negative impact on our network of local growers, ranchers and suppliers. It also could permanently damage the fragile regional food system that we’ve been working to create and, in the end, could reduce options for Portlanders who choose to shop at locally owned stores.
Rohter assured his readers that he’s not ready to give up the fight.