Chris Stief is managing partner of the firm's Philadelphia office, immediate past co-chair and co-founder of the firm’s Employee Defection and Trade Secrets Practice Group, and a core member of the International Employment Practice Group and Financial Services Industry Group. Chris represents employers in labor and employment matters, with a nationwide and international practice focusing on restrictive covenant and trade secrets issues. His practice includes litigating and advising companies on matters relating to covenants not to compete, non-solicitation and non-disclosure agreements, unfair competition, employee raiding and team moves, trade secrets, duty of loyalty, the U.S. Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), the U.S. Computer Fraud & Abuse Act (CFAA), and various state trade secrets and unfair competition statutes. He has a particular focus on advising and providing representation on restrictive covenant issues for companies that have a multi-state or multi-national workforce, and a consequent need to interpret and account for the varying laws of diverse jurisdictions. There are five main segments to Chris’s practice:
- Drafting & Implementing Restrictive Covenants & Confidentiality Programs: Chris regularly assists companies with drafting restrictive covenants and helps clients develop programs to protect their competitive assets against employee defection. He places particular emphasis on advising and creating such programs for businesses that operate on a multi-state or multi-national basis, helping employers manage the challenges of developing and implementing a consistent corporate approach across a broad range of sometimes conflicting jurisdictional law and workplace cultures. International and cross-border drafting and strategy is an area of increasing demand.
- Employee Transitions -- Strategic Planning, Advice & Counseling: Chris spends a good deal of time engaged in strategic planning with companies about potential recruits or upcoming employee transitions. This includes risk assessment of prospective recruiting ventures, as well as the formulation of strategic options to address or minimize legal risks while preserving the business value of a hiring and expansion opportunity. Chris has provided counseling, advice and risk assessment relating to multiple hundreds of employee transitions throughout the United States.
- Restrictive Covenant, Trade Secrets and Employee Raiding/Team Move Litigation: Chris has handled litigation and other contentious non-compete, trade secrets, employee raiding and team-move disputes throughout the United States (at least 45 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico), as well as international matters arising out of key jurisdictions in Asia, Europe, South America, and the Middle East. This includes both enforcement and defense, and many of his litigation and arbitration matters have involved applications for temporary restraining orders or preliminary injunctions, along with claims for money damages. Chris has experience handling cross-border restrictive covenant litigation, including prosecuting and resisting anti-suit injunction actions in both U.S. and E.U. jurisdictions involving the application of the EU’s Brussels Regulation (Recast) on Personal Jurisdiction.
He has represented clients in numerous industries, including securities brokerage (retail private client and trading & sales desks); private banking and family office services; insurance services, brokers and carriers; retail (physical and online); athletic apparel; radio (on-air talent and sales); direct response television (on-air talent); home and business security and premises automation; advertising; industrial chemical manufacturing and sales; pharmaceutical and life sciences; publishing; computer software, sales and services; telecommunications; industrial gas distribution; market research; business consulting; medical, dental and veterinary practices and hospitals; employee placement and staffing; long haul trucking and freight forwarding; automobile and auto parts manufacturing; packaging; government contracting; mortgage lenders, brokers and securitization; credit unions, and others.
- Mergers & Acquisitions: Chris’s restrictive covenant practice frequently intersects with merger and acquisition activities. His M&A related practice includes: (a) drafting restrictive covenants for inclusion in purchase agreements, (b) developing non-compete and restrictive covenant and retention agreements for key employees following closing of a transaction, (c) assessment of assignability and successor enforcement rights for restrictive covenant agreements previously entered into by employees with acquisition targets or previously acquired companies, (d) litigation to enforce sale-of-business covenants, (e) risk assessment and strategy formulation for third parties recruiting employees out of a competitor's pending acquisition target, (f) litigation relating to alleged employee “raids” of a recently acquired workforce, and (g) advising companies on implementation of effective restrictive covenant and asset protection programs to help position a company for potential acquisition, venture capital investment, or private equity financing.
- Arbitration Agreements, Arbitrability Disputes and Mediation: Having been actively engaged with matters on behalf of securities broker-dealers and registered representatives throughout much of his practice, Chris has frequently handled matters in which the interpretation and enforcement of arbitration agreements, and disputes as to the nature and scope of arbitrability of claims, have been at issue. These questions are typically governed by the parties’ arbitration agreements and the U.S. Federal Arbitration Act, the New York Arbitration Act CPLR Article 75, and other state arbitration statutes. Chris has experience with arbitration and/or mediation of disputes at FINRA Dispute Resolution, Inc. and its predecessor organizations at the NASD and NYSE, as well as AAA and JAMS in the U.S. and CEDR in London.
Chris is "AV" Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell, is a Chambers USA Ranked Lawyer for Pennsylvania Labor & Employment, and has been selected for inclusion in Who's Who Legal USA – Management Labour & Employment and in Best Lawyers for both Litigation-Labor & Employment Law and Trade Secrets Law. In 2020 and various prior years, he was listed as a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer for Employment & Labor. Chris is a past Co-Chair of both the Philadelphia Bar Association and the Delaware County Bar Association Labor & Employment Law Committees. Chris serves on the Board of Directors of the International Employers Forum, a non-profit organization with chapters in the U.S. and Europe dedicated to providing education and networking opportunities for legal and human resources professionals whose organizations employ workers globally. He is a founder and co-leader of the Fisher Phillips Financial Services Recruitment Litigation Conference, a well-established participatory conference focusing on issues relevant to restrictive covenant litigation among broker-dealers, private wealth management firms, Registered Investment Advisors (RIA), private banks and insurance carrier distribution networks and agencies. Conferences have been held since 2003, and topics addressed have ranged from raiding to FINRA and SEC regulations, and application of the Protocol for Broker Recruiting. In September of 2018, Chris was one of the keynote speakers and acted as a co-organizer of a conference in London, Global Business Protections 2018: International Restrictive Covenants and Confidential Information. The next iteration of this conference will be held in London in 2022.