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Discovery Communications sues CSC over EVP

Discovery Communications Inc. has filed a federal lawsuit against Computer Sciences Corp., alleging it purloined Executive Vice President/Chief Accounting Officer Thomas R. Colan while he was still under contract.

Silver Spring-based Discovery filed suit in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt Friday, seeking actual and punitive damages for tortious interference with contract, as well as pre- and post-judgment interest and legal fees. The amount is unspecified, except that it exceeds the $75,000 minimum for federal court jurisdiction.

Colan began working at CSC this summer, even though his contract with Discovery extends into March 2013, according to court documents.

A spokesperson for Falls Church, Va.-based CSC said the company did not comment on ongoing litigation.

An Aug. 23 news release from the firm said that Colan was named vice president, controller and principal accounting officer and would be reporting to Paul Saleh, CSC’s chief financial officer. CSC’s filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission indicate Colan will receive $511,000 in base and annual incentive cash compensation for the rest of fiscal 2013.

Colan, 57, began working at Discovery in March 2008 after nine years at America Online/Time Warner, where he held the positions of senior vice president, controller and treasurer, according to SEC filings.

According to the lawsuit, his contract at Discovery was most recently amended in January 2011 and extended through March 2013.

His contract also stipulated that if he left before that time, it would be considered a breach of contract, the lawsuit says.

Colan sent an email Aug. 17 to Discovery’s chief financial officer resigning his post. Colan said his last day would be Aug. 30, but did not specify who his future employer would be, according to court documents.

The company’s human resources department met with Colan a few days later and told Colan that the company would not release him from his contract.

Even so, Colan told Discovery on Aug. 23 that he was going to accept the other job. That same day, CSC issued its news release and filed a form with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, stating that it had hired Colan.

Discovery sent letters to CSC’s legal department on Aug. 24, advising CSA that Colan was still under contract with Discovery, according to the complaint. Discovery also wrote to Colan on Aug. 27, rejecting his resignation and advising him not to violate his contract. Discovery did not receive a response to either letter.

Colan began working at CSC Aug. 31, the lawsuit says.

Discovery sent similar letters Sept. 10 to Colan and CSC, informing them that the company had a claim for tortious interference against CSC.

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, a Washington, D.C., law firm representing Discovery, did not return calls for comment.

According the complaint filed Friday, Colan breached his contract as a result of CSC’s tortious interference, causing damages to Discovery. The complaint also alleged that CSC’s actions were “wanton, willful and malicious,” justifying punitive damages.