A major WA agribusiness has started legal proceedings against a former employee over allegations he misused confidential information to get a head start on a new rival business. Milne AgriGroup — owned and managed by prominent businessman Graham Laitt and his family — has filed Supreme Court proceedings against its former ruminants feed manager Dean Toovey. Mr Toovey worked at Milne from October 2016 until January 10, 2020. He and his business partners John and Doreen Patmore are building the $30m Patmore Feeds Business at Cuballing, which will be in direct competition to Milne AgriGroup’s Milne Feeds operations. Mr and Mrs Patmore were previously Narrogin depot agents for Milne Feeds. To be commissioned in October and expected to be operating six weeks later, Patmore Feeds will be one of WA’s biggest stockfeed mills, producing 180,000 tonnes of livestock pellets a year and employing 25 people. Milne AgriGroup, represented by Herbert Smith Freehills, alleges Mr Toovey took confidential and commercially sensitive information available to him as a Milne Feeds employee to obtain an advantage or head start — at Milne’s expense — in establishing Patmore Feeds. Court documents allege that in December 2019 and January 2020, while still a Milne employee, Mr Toovey used his work email account to send emails to his personal account containing confidential and commercially sensitive documents. These included a raw ingredient forecast, market costs, mill sales reports (including sales information on every product and every customer), and a sheep sales tracker. Milne also alleges in January 2020 Mr Toovey sent a link to docs.google, from his then work email to his personal email, enabling him continued live access to the Milne transport schedule. It is also alleged Mr Toovey, while still employed with Milne, communicated with Mr Patmore inappropriately by forwarding to him internal email communications. Milne is seeking damages compensation for Mr Toovey’s beach of employment contract, which stated information should be kept confidential. Milne is also seeking an injunction that would restrain Patmore Feeds from soliciting or attempting to solicit business from potential customers identified in the confidential information for 12 months. Mr Laitt, a lawyer by background, bought Milne Feeds in 1987. That became the foundation of the Milne AgriGroup, also comprising the Mt Barker Free Range Chicken and Plantaganet Free Range Pork brands. Milne AgriGroup declined to comment. Mr Toovey, who will defend the allegations, declined to comment. His defence is in the process of being filed. The next hearing is on April 22.