Eurofresh eventually registered Ethrel, which is widely used in Dutch greenhouses, with the Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Arizona.
Arizona approved its use pending EPA approval, but the EPA did not approve it. According to the complaint, Van Straalen instructed Karen Tifft, Eurofresh’s biocontrol manager, to continue using Ethrel while the company appealed the EPA decision.
In May 2009, according to the lawsuit, Tifft told David Godfrey, Eurofresh’s vice president of human resources, who told McLaughlin and Dwight Ferguson, then the company’s president and chief executive officer.
Ferguson “immediately directed Van Straalen to halt all further use of Ethrel,” according to the lawsuit. Ferguson, who is now the president and chief executive officer of Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC, left Eurofresh in November 2009.
Van Straalen did not tell Tifft to continue using Ethrel, van den Berg said. Instead, Van Straalen instructed employees not to use Ethrel while the EPA reviewed Eurofresh’s appeal.
In September 2009, Eurofresh won its EPA appeal and Ethrel was approved for use in the U.S.
Ferguson left Eurofresh voluntarily, van den Berg said. Ferguson declined to comment.
McLaughlin also claims he was criticized for recommending a review of Eurofresh’s accounting practices, and that he and the company’s auditors found the company had overstated its earnings by $10.3 million.
Van den Berg also denied that charge, saying there was no “restatement of earnings.”
Eurofresh emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2009, the month McLaughlin was fired and Ferguson left the company.