There’s a battle raging in the vegan dairy world. Bay Area-based vegan dairy company Miyoko's Creamery is embroiled in a legal fight with its namesake and founder Miyoko Schinner.
Miyoko's Creamery, one of the most popular vegan dairy companies in the country, publicly ousted Schinner earlier this month. According to a corporate press release from February 16, Schinner “exited as CEO and is no longer involved in day-to-day operations.”
However, the Chronicle reported that the Board privately made the decision last summer due to her "numerous performance deficiencies." Schinner reportedly founded the company in 2014, helping it raise more than 85 million to date and bringing its alt-cheeses and butters from a Petaluma production center to more than 20,000 stores nationally, including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Walmart.
Now, numerous outlets are reporting that the company has also sued her for breach of contract and theft of intellectual property. According to SFGate, Miyoko’s Creamery filed a civil lawsuit against Schinner the same day, February 16, accusing her of breaching a contract and stealing intellectual property.
One Miyoko’s board member described the conflict as a “battle for the integrity of the company,” according to the Chronicle.
The company alleges she transferred more than 24,000 documents to “a non-company hard drive” after the board of directors reportedly unanimously terminated her as CEO in June 2022, and that an additional 2,900 documents disappeared from company computers.
Schinner has since posted a few times on LinkedIn, responding to the allegations. Regarding her nonpublic demotion last year, she wrote last week, “It is true that I was unwilling to agree to restrictions that would have made any ongoing role I played at this Company ‘for appearances’ only.”
The Chronicle reports that the lawsuit alleges that this dismissal, Schinner remained an employee, but “(i)nstead of facilitating an orderly transition,” she “hatched a plot to steal the Company’s property, trade secrets, and confidential information so that she could create a competing company.”
Schinner maintains that there’s more to it. “I want to let you know that I am not being silent, but searching for the right time to tell my story,” her LinkedIn post from Friday reads.
However, Miyoko Creamery’s complaint reportedly also claims that the company has video surveillance of Schinner and another former employee apparently taking some cheese cultures and unreleased product prototypes from company facilities without authorization. As per the lawsuit, Schinner is accused of not repaying a loan of $112,500 that she had taken from the company
Miyoko Creamery’s current CFO John Blair has stepped into the interim role as CEO while the company searches for a permanent replacement for Schinner, the company has said.
Image via Flickr/Tony Webster under Creative Commons.