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Tuckerbrook Alternative Investments, Lp v. Banerjee

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 30, 2014

TUCKERBROOK ALTERNATIVE INVESTMENTS, LP, Plaintiff,
v.
SUMANTA BANERJEE, Defendant and Counterclaimant,
v.
TUCKERBROOK ALTERNATIVE INVESTMENTS, LP, Counterclaim Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

GEORGE A. O'TOOLE, Jr., District Judge.

I. Background

This case arises out of the termination of counterclaimant Sumanta Banerjee's employment with counterclaim defendant Tuckerbrook Alternative Investments, LP ("Tuckerbrook"). The parties have a lengthy history of prior proceedings and factual disputes which this Court need not set out in detail. In relevant summary, Banerjee entered into an Employment Agreement with Tuckerbrook in May 2006 to serve as Portfolio Manager of certain hedge funds. Disputes between the parties began in early 2008 and led to the termination of the employment relationship. In April 2008, Tuckerbrook filed suit in Massachusetts Superior Court, and Banerjee removed the case to this Court. See Tuckerbrook Alternative Investments, LP v. Banerjee, 2008 WL 2356349 (D. Mass. June 4, 2008) ("Banerjee I"). The parties participated in court-sponsored mediation, and a final settlement agreement was executed by the parties on or about November 6, 2008. In October 2009, Tuckerbrook initiated a second action against Banerjee, claiming, among other things, breach of the 2008 settlement agreement. Tuckerbrook Alternative Investments, LP v. Banerjee , 754 F.Supp.2d 177 (D. Mass. 2010) (Banerjee II).

In early 2010, Always Investigations, on behalf of Tuckerbrook, contacted Banerjee in India in ways that Banerjee alleges were repeated and harassing. Meanwhile, Tuckerbrook and fund investors Alkek & Williams, Ltd. and Albert and Margaret Alkek Foundation (collectively "Alkek") were involved in unrelated litigation. Tuckerbrook and Banerjee contingently resolved Banjeree II through a settlement agreement, which required Banerjee to appear and testify at a deposition in the Alkek case, which he did. In September 2011, the parties again participated in arbitration regarding Tuckerbrook's allegations that Banjeree had violated the 2011 settlement agreement.

Before this Court, Tuckerbrook asserts breach of the 2008 settlement agreement, tortious interference with contract and/or advantageous business relations, misappropriation of trade secrets, and violation of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93A. Banerjee counterclaims alleging breach of the 2011 settlement agreement, abuse of process, defamation, and violation of Massachusetts General Laws chapter 93A. Tuckerbrook has moved to dismiss the counterclaims pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) and 12(b)(6). Tuckerbrook also has filed a motion to impound the related pleadings and exhibits, which Banerjee opposes.

II. Legal Standard

To survive a motion to dismiss a plaintiff must present facts that make his claim plausible on its face. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A viable complaint must be well-pled, and the facts must support logical conclusions. Specifically, the complaint must contain "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of the cause of action." Id . at 555. When evaluating a motion to dismiss, this Court must take "all the factual allegations in the complaint as true." Maldonado v. Fontanes , 568 F.3d 263, 266 (1st Cir 2009) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). This Court will also consider documents from prior related proceedings that were attached to the parties' memoranda, as well as the public record. See Watterson v. Page , 987 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 1993).

III. Discussion

A. Abuse of Process (Counterclaim II)

In Counterclaim II, Banerjee asserts that Tuckerbrook committed abuse of process through harassment in India and conduct during settlement negotiations. To prevail on a claim for abuse of process, the claimant must demonstrate that process was used against him for an "ulterior or illegitimate purpose, " resulting in damage. Vittands v. Sudduth , 730 N.E.2d 325, 406 (Mass.App.Ct. 2000). "Process" in this context has a far narrower meaning than its colloquial definition and is "limited to three procedures: writs of attachment, process used to institute a civil action, and process related to the bringing of criminal charges." Cignetti v. Healy , 967 F.Supp. 10, 18 (D. Mass. 1997) (citing Jones v. Brockton Pub. Markets, Inc. , 340 N.E.2d 484, 486 (1975)).

The actions that Banerjee complains of and attributes to Tuckerbrook do not qualify as "process" in the sense required for abuse of process. Instead, Banerjee seems to invoke a colloquial definition and allege that the general process of Tuckerbrook's interactions with him were abusive. For example: "The Plaintiffs, Tuckerbrook, have been on a path of harassment and coercion of Banerjee since this case was started in October 2009. This Abuse of Process has been demonstrated repeatedly over the years through the various activities of Tuckerbrook, Hassett and his counsel." (Counterclaim ¶ 23 (dkt. no. 22).) The facts alleged are confined to Tuckerbrook's attempts "to extort a favorable deposition'" and "to extort an Affidavit', id. ¶ 39; namely, by using agents in India to "coerce Banerjee to appear for the deposition" in the Alkek case and by emailing a settlement offer in Banerjee II which contained an affidavit for Banerjee's signature "filled with outright lies and misrepresentations, " id. ¶¶ 24-26. These factual allegations do not come close to the appropriate meaning of "process."

B. Defamation (Counterclaim III)

In his Counterclaim III for defamation, Banerjee alleges that:

Tuckerbrook... has repeatedly and continually caused harm through disparagement and harassment through its Agents (Always) and Counsel. Counterclaim Defendant, Tuckerbrook, has sent its agents all the way to India to the Plaintiff [Banerjee]'s place of residence to harass ...

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