Exec Says AmEx Fired Him for Doing Right

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – An America Express program for Walmart debit cards exposes shoppers to fraud, and a technology executive who warned AmEx about it was fired for his trouble, he claims in a $1 million lawsuit.
     Matthew Gray sued American Express Travel Related Services, and the company he founded, virtual currency platform and payments provider Sometrics, in Superior Court. Walmart is not a party to the complaint.
     Last last year, American Express and Walmart launched Bluebird, a prepaid debit card which also serves as a checking account, and includes traditional AmEx features such as roadside assistance and protection against ID theft.
     Gray says he was chief technology officer at Sometrics when in September 2011 American Express acquired the company for $30 million, and retained him as an employee.
     “Gray was working at TRS [AmEx Travel Related Services] as a technical architect on the Walmart/Bluebird project. TRS and Walmart had a large joint venture in the form of a financial services product named Bluebird which was a banking and check cashing product to be sold at everyone of Walmart’s 9,000 locations in the United States. The launch date was originally set to be the second week of October 2012, and heavy pressure was being applied to Gray’s division to finish the project by September,” the complaint states.
     Gray says he was “tasked with testing the security and performance of the Bluebird payment platform,” and several times informed his superior, (nonparty) Cory Moreira, that a system for running security checks was flawed.
     “Gray brought up the lack of security and performance with Moreira and notified Moreira that the Bluebird product was unsafe to use due to its lack of security and the project would be unable to launch on the October date,” the complaint states. “TRS was misleading its customers by not disclosing the security issue. In addition, to the extent that any security breaches occurred, such should have been reported to various governmental entities in California and throughout the U.S.”
     The complaint continues: “Furthermore, Gray notified Moreira that there were many offshore contractors working on the Bluebird payment platform without adequate safeguards in place, and that it was possible that a security hole or ‘back door’ had been installed in the Blue bird product by these offshore contractors, yet Moreira refused to address these security issues.”
     Gray describes an office party at an American Express office in St. Petersburg, Fla., and claims that he and American Express employee Andrew Lierman met in a restaurant opposite the office, and talked to an unnamed woman “for a period of time.”
     “She then accompanied both plaintiff and Lierman when they returned to the TRS office to retrieve Lierman’s laptop computer. While at the TRS St. Petersburg office, plaintiff denies any inappropriate conduct and did nothing to violate any policy or rule of TRS known to him,” the complaint states.
     Lierman is not a party to the complaint.
     Gray claims that American Express then investigated him for bogus reasons, to retaliate for his warnings about Bluebird, and to avoid paying him for his shares in Sometrics, and benefits worth $300,000.
     Gray’s attorney Eric Kastner did not respond to a request for information about the nature of American Express’ investigation.
     Gray claims American Express fired him without explanation on Oct. 4, 2012, without cashing out his shares, or paying the lump sums due under contract.
     “Shortly after identifying the violation of law and public policy if TRS were to proceed to implement the defective Bluebird payment platform, without any attempt to remedy the security and safety problems with the credit card product, thus endangering millions of TRS customers in California and elsewhere, and creating an undisclosed potential risk of material loss to shareholders not disclosed on SEC filings, plaintiff was terminated in retaliation for his complaint and to silence his complaint,” the complaint states.
     Gray’s attorney Kastner is with the Kastner Kim law firm of Mountain View.
     American Express spokeswoman Marina Norville told Courthouse News Service the company does not comment on pending litigation.
     Sometrics did not respond to a request for comment.

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