Architecture Firm Complains of Poaching
DALLAS (CN) - The former head of a Texas architecture firm's Beijing office stole more than $1.8 million in revenues by poaching clients, the company claims in court.
Corgan Associates, of Dallas, says Rick Lichang Jin convinced it to open the Beijing field office in 2006 and make him its director.
Jin allegedly persuaded Corgan that it needed a "physical presence" as an "absolute necessity" to market and perform its projects.
"Instead of fulfilling his fiduciary responsibilities to grow Corgan's business in Beijing, Jin opened his own companies in China and engaged in self-dealing and usurpation of corporate opportunities to benefit himself, his wife and his company," the 18-page complaint states. "As part of the fraudulent scheme and artifice employed by him, Jin formed a company in Texas and a wholly foreign-owned enterprise in Beijing, used Corgan's resources and staff in Beijing to build his own business, converted Corgan's pricing and other proprietary information for his own use, entered into at least fifteen key contracts with Chinese clients over a six year span to profit from his self-dealing without disclosing his activities to Corgan and secreted these monies to bank accounts in China and in Texas controlled by him or his wife."
Jin is licensed as an architect in Texas, and his wife, Lina Wang, is a former auditor with Ernst & Young and the city of Dallas, Corgan claims. Both Jin and Wang, of Plano, are named as defendants to the action in Dallas County District Court.
"Jin's proposal included a comprehensive marketing list of potential Chinese clients for Corgan that focused on airports, healthcare facilities, sports facilities, schools and universities, hotels and resorts, office buildings, museums, shopping malls and residential developments," the complaint states. "In effect, the scope of work in China proposed by Jin was a tailor-made fit for the work already performed by Corgan."
On Dec. 31, 2007, within a year of Corgan's opening of the Beijing office, Jin allegedly formed C.A.I. Inc. in Texas, echoing Corgan's name.
Six months later, Jin formed a wholly foreign-owned enterprise in Beijing called CAI (Beijing) International Architectural Design Consulting Co. Ltd., with C.A.I. as the sole owner and Jin and his wife as directors, according to the complaint.
Jin's Texas-based firm C.A.I. is the only corporate defendant to Corgan's action.
"Between July 2008 through September 2012, CAI-WFOE entered into at least 15 key contracts with various Chinese companies," the complaint states. "The scope of the work for these contracts ranged from the design and detailed planning for various clients including the Ethiopian embassy, commercial and residential projects, a luxury hotel, grocery market, various office buildings and review of construction drawings on other projects. ... Jin pocketed the entire earnings from CAI-WFOE. Jin failed to disclose any of these contracts or the revenue generated by these contracts to Corgan."
Corgan further alleges that the fraud became apparent only after one of the Chinese employees at the Beijing office unsuccessfully tried to delete financial records during its computer audit in April 2013.
Jin's employment with Corgan ended on June 30.
Founded in 1938, Corgan is ranked as one of the top international architectural design firms and has over 300 professionals in Dallas, New York, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, Beijing and Dubai, according to its website.
Corgan seeks actual and punitive damages for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, conspiracy, fraud, fraudulent concealment, conversion and theft. It is represented by Marcos Ronquillo with Bierne Maynard of Dallas.
No phone numbers are listed for Jin, Wang or C.A.I. at their Plano addresses.