Jury gives timeshare advocate victory over Wyndham

A Nashville man who runs a timeshare advocacy group has successfully staved off a lawsuit by Wyndham Hotels after a jury ruled that he hadn’t shared trade secrets from his time as a Wyndham employee.

Sean Austin, a 21-year Navy veteran, worked as a timeshare salesman at the historic Union Station hotel in downtown Nashville. Union Station retained the Wyndham "flag" from 2005 until earlier this year, but was operated by Nashville Union Station Hotel, LLC.

Austin left the company and started Timeshare Advocacy International after observing what he called deceitful and objectionable sales tactics. (The facts in the case occurred before current owners Turnberry Associates bought the property.) Timeshare Advocacy International claims to have successfully terminated more than 1,000 timeshare contracts.

Wyndham Vacation Resorts sued Austin in U.S. District Court for trade agreements and TAI for violating the Trade Secrets Act and attempting to interfere with business relationships. But a jury had no sympathy for the large hotel chain and ruled in favor of Austin. Federal judge William Haynes signed an order officially dismissing the lawsuit on Friday.

“The jury’s verdict represents a victory for free speech and free enterprise, and against corporate bullying,” said Austin’s attorney, Greg Oakley of DHPM PC in a press release.

Mt. Juliet resident Charles McDowell, the president of Wesley Financial Group, was a co-defendant in the lawsuit and also prevailed in the case. Lyndsay Hyde and Andrea McKellar of McKellarHyde represented McDowell.

Wyndham was represented by Courtney Gilmer of Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz.

"The safety of our owners will always remain a top priority for Wyndham Vacation Ownership and we do not tolerate individuals or companies who cause undue harm to our valued owners or tarnish the reputation of our industry," company spokeswoman Merav Benedetti said in an email. "Wyndham received a monetary judgment in the Timeshare Advocacy International (TAI) lawsuit and we will continue to take an aggressive approach in the court system to see that these companies are held accountable for their actions, including in the two current lawsuits pending against Chuck McDowell’s other cancellation assistance companies."

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