Atomic 212’s case against former CEO Jason Dooris heads to court after his house is searched

The complex court battle between Atomic 212 and its former CEO Jason Dooris has ramped up, involving wide-ranging allegations on both sides and a search of Dooris’ home to collect, and search, electronic devices.

Yesterday’s virtual Supreme Court proceedings also revealed that the agency believes Dooris used a fake Atomic 212 email address to “nefarious[ly]” impersonate its chair, Barry O’Brien, and trick the agency’s staff into sending him confidential information such as client and pricing lists.

In court yesterday, Atomic 212’s barrister was frustrated. Dooris – who exited after a Mumbrella investigation revealed he had made misleading claims to win industry awards – had supplied just 28 of the 83 passwords he’s required by the court to hand over.

Those passwords are necessary for an independent computer expert to access and search the many devices collected last month as part of the search on Dooris’ home. On 27 April, the independent computer expert and independent solicitor executed the search order, motivated by Atomic 212’s suspicion that Dooris is in possession of client lists, pricing information, and other confidential material.

Dooris, pictured in 2016

A copy has since been made of the electronic devices, but the case was back in court yesterday, via video link, to determine which of those materials can actually be searched by the computer expert.

Justice Adams ruled that Dooris’ wife’s mobile phone could not be taken and searched. Mrs Dooris arrived at her home as the search order was being carried out last month, and was asked to hand over her phone. She refused and left the premises.

The order related to any electronic device in Dooris’ “possession, custody, or control”, and the judge said it would be “old-fashioned” to consider a woman’s phone to be controlled by her husband.

It is alleged Dooris used “complex and sophisticated” methods like VPNs and fake email accounts to cause damage to his former workplace, so Justice Adams added it is unlikely he would use his wife’s phone to conduct such alleged activities.

A subpoena against Mrs Dooris to produce the phone was also set aside, and Atomic 212 was ordered to pay costs on the issue.

Her Honour allowed Dooris’ voice recorder and his daughter’s Apple watch – found in a safe in the living room – to be searched, but the parties agreed his three children’s remaining devices would not be.

Atomic 212’s barrister, Sandy Dawson, said “there’s no question” that such a search order is life-disrupting and an intrusion on privacy. “That’s why these orders are so hard to get,” he noted.

Dawson added that he hopes Dooris “wakes up to himself” when it comes to his obligation to supply the remaining 55 passwords to the searchable devices. The barrister said Dooris has been claiming not to have those passwords, despite previously claiming he provided them to the independent solicitor. The fact only a fraction of the passwords were provided was not disclosed to Atomic 212’s legal team, or the judge, Dawson said.

“We have been kept in the dark” about the fact that Dooris has “unilaterally carved out 60 accounts on the basis he can’t hand over a password,” Dawson said.

“I understand why you’re troubled,” Justice Adams responded.


Late in the day, Dooris’ barrister confirmed his client will work with the computer expert to reset some passwords.

The media agency’s allegations against its former chief executive were first set out in a statement of claim filed last September, which seeks $300,000 in damages.

Atomic 212 alleges that, in early 2018, Dooris contacted an AdNews journalist twice with false information about a number of accounts, including NIB, Aus Super, Mortgage Choice, and Tennis Australia.

Dooris allegedly told the journalist Atomic 212 had a conflict of interest by having both NIB and Aus Super as clients, when Atomic 212 says it has never had Aus Super as a client.

On the second occasion, Atomic 212 claims Dooris told the journalist a pitch for NIB didn’t go well – Atomic says it did – and that the agency was pitching for the Tennis Australia account, which is also denied by the agency. Furthermore, it’s alleged Dooris told the journalist the agency had lost the Aus Super account, a piece of business Atomic says it never had.

In Dooris’ defence, seen by Mumbrella, he denies trying to plant those false stories. He also denies that he ever falsified award entries, as claimed by Mumbrella.

The media agency also says that more than a year later, in September 2019, Dooris sent envelopes to three employees and one client which contained copies of emails he threatened to send to a long list of recipients, including IPG Mediabrands’ APAC CEO Leigh Terry, ASIC’s fraud unit, and NSW Police’s serious fraud unit. Those emails, the statement of claim says, contained allegations of fraud, kickbacks, and laundering of those kickbacks.

If the threatened emails are sent, it “could result in the loss of many clients”, Atomic 212’s statement of claim reads.

The allegations contained within the emails are false, Atomic 212 and O’Brien say, and the legal action is an attempt to prevent Dooris from publishing claims that Atomic 212: engaged in fraud, takes bribes or kickbacks at the expense of clients, launders those bribes and kickbacks, and warrants investigation by ASIC’s fraud unit or NSW Police’s serious fraud unit.

According to the agency, contacting the AdNews journalist twice and sending the envelopes constitutes three breaches of a deed Dooris signed upon resigning and selling his shares after the award entry scandal, which stops the parties from injuring the other’s reputation. Each breach, according to the deed, results in a required payment of $100,000.

Dooris denies sending the envelopes, but makes a number of serious allegations in his defence. He alleges O’Brien invoiced a client for $550,000 when its media actually cost $230,000, and pocketed the difference. And chief digital officer James Dixon allegedly inflated client invoices by “manually adding a ‘zero'”.

Dooris also claims that, in 2017, O’Brien asked Mark Frain – then director of MCN, now CEO of the rebranded entity, Foxtel Media – for a $600,000 fee in exchange for spending clients’ money with MCN.

And, finally, the defence states that O’Brien helped a brand’s employee with a visa application in exchange for information that helped Atomic 212 pitch for the brand’s account. O’Brien has denied that allegation, the defence notes.

The case – which Justice Adams yesterday acknowledged is “factually dense” – is scheduled to be back in court on 2 June and 15 June, and is set down for a preliminary hearing on 30 July.


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