Coworkers Become Enemies As Cannabis Consultants Feud In Cutthroat Market

The CEO of SIVA Enterprises has filed suit against start-up Cirrata and five executives in that company, previously employed at SIVA, over alleged civil and criminal acts committed in a supposed effort to undermine SIVA’s business, Marijuana Business Daily reports. Avis Bulbulyan of SIVA is pitting himself against Lance Ott, Steve Baghoomian, David Yeager, Colton Lasater and Charles Christopher of Cirrata.

“I’m going absolutely every single step all the way to the very end – every last penny I’ve got, every last nickel I’ve got. This is going all the way to the end. I want my day. To me, my reputation is absolutely everything. I won’t change it for any dollar amount.” — Avis Bulbulyan to Marijuana Business Daily

Neither plaintiff nor defendants seem interested in a settlement, though most suits of this nature tend to be settled out of court.

“I have no interest in settling this whatsoever … If it goes to trial, it goes to trial. The scope of what you’re going to see coming out – this stretches the entire gamut. This is going to look like a bad episode of [CBS’s] ‘American Greed.'” — Steve Baghoomian to Marijuana Business Daily

The five defendants in the case were all hired on at SIVA in October of 2017 and worked there until they began to leave or be terminated in late winter and early spring of 2018. Lance Ott, former CEO of Washington-based Guardian Data Systems, has known Bulbulyan as a friend since 2014. Both Bulbulyan and Ott are members of the LA Cannabis Task Force’s regulatory advisory board.

The suit alleges that, while employed at SIVA, the defendants began conspiring to steal clients and intellectual property. Bulbulyan’s filing alleges that Ott, Baghoomian, and Yaeger decided to form Cirrata as early as January and even searched for new office space during that time frame. Shortly thereafter, the defendants are alleged to have started cutting Bulbulyan out of inter-office communications, as revealed by a few undeleted emails discovered by Bulbulyan.

Between March 23 and April 2, all five had either resigned or been terminated from SIVA Enterprises. Cirrata was incorporated officially on April 12 — Cirrata’s website domain, however, was registered on March 12th, while the defendants were still corporate officers of SIVA. Other details are revealed in the suit, including alleged defamation on several corporate review websites. Most importantly, Bulbulyan claims the defendants violated California criminal laws regarding illegal computer access and data theft; violations that carry a prison sentence if convicted.

Among the defendants, only Steve Baghoomian has commented on the suit so far, telling Marijuana Business Daily the suit is baseless and countering that he and the other defendants would disclose illegal activity at SIVA should the suit go to court. Baghoomian said he was actually terminated from SIVA when he brought these worries about criminal activity to Bulbulyan’s attention.

The battle between SIVA and Cirrata is a clear sign of how competitive the legal cannabis markets have become as they develop. Should the case go to court, it could take 12-18 months before a ruling is made.

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