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Pinellas Park firm says a rival stole its business with Duke Energy

 A Pinellas Park company said its future is endangered and $1.2 million in annual sales lost because it did what Duke Energy told it to do.
[Times file photo]

A Pinellas Park company said its future is endangered and $1.2 million in annual sales lost because it did what Duke Energy told it to do. [Times file photo]

ST. PETERSBURG — A Pinellas Park company said its future is endangered and $1.2 million in annual sales lost because it did exactly what a big client told it to do.

In this case, Duke Energy Florida told Carlwood Safety Inc., a supplier of safety, industrial and janitorial suppliers, to cooperate fully with a consultant that was helping Duke in its acquisition of Progress Energy by integrating the two utilities' supply lists, Carlwood said. That merger was completed on July 3, 2012.

But in a lawsuit filed this week in Pinellas County, Carlwood said the consultant, Wesco Distribution of Pittsburgh, stole its business with Duke after getting proprietary information from Carlwood under the guise of its consulting work for Duke.

Carlwood said Duke had indicated to it that the firm, which had provided supplies for Progress, would continue to do so for Duke and that opportunities existed to increase those sales.

But Wesco, which declined to comment on pending litigation, obtained Carlwood's pricing and supplier information and later undercut the firm to "misappropriate" Duke's business, the suit said.

The result, the lawsuit said, was that Carlwood lost $100,000 a month in sales and $20,000 in monthly profit.

The lawsuit said that Duke, which is not named as a defendant, did not disclose to Carlwood that Wesco "would, or might come to be a competing supplier to Duke." In fact, an early meeting with Duke and Wesco indicated the opposite, Carlwood said. Duke declined to comment.

But a couple of months after that meeting with Wesco, Carlwood said its orders with the utility had declined. Carlwood said it later learned that Wesco has instructed its suppliers to stop providing products to Carlwood.

Carlwood called Wesco's activities "deceitful" and said the company's fortunes are "in a precarious unstable position." Duke represented about 70 percent of Carlwood's total sales, the suit said.

Contact William R. Levesque at levesque@tampabay.com. Follow @Times_Levesque.

Pinellas Park firm says a rival stole its business with Duke Energy 04/28/17 [Last modified: Saturday, April 29, 2017 12:59am]
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