By Bernard Vaughan
NEW YORK, June 7 A dispute involving a gun
industry executive who claims he was fired after being falsely
accused of bringing his weapons to work offers a peek into
Freedom Group, the gun-making conglomerate owned by Cerberus
Capital Management LP.
The battle unfolding in Manhattan federal court concerns
Advanced Armament Corp LLC, a maker of silencers that is one of
the smaller businesses within Freedom Group, which also owns
iconic brands such as Bushmaster and Remington Arms.
Cerberus put Freedom Group up for sale last year after a
Bushmaster rifle was used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School
shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.
In December 2011, Advanced Armament fired its founder, Kevin
Brittingham, for taking his personal guns, as well as a grenade
launcher, to work in violation of company policy and federal
firearms laws, according to court papers filed by the company.
Brittingham sued Advanced Armament and Remington last year.
He claims there was no evidence he brought weapons to work and
says the companies are trying to avoid paying him millions of
dollars under an agreement reached when he sold his company to
Freedom Group in 2009. Brittingham did receive $10.16 million as
part of the sale.
In a May 30 court filing, Brittingham accused the companies
of resorting to "shameless character assassinations" in an
effort to distract U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest, who is
presiding over the case. A trial is to start on June 17.
Cerberus referred questions to Freedom Group. Freedom Group
declined multiple requests for comment. Remington, as well as
Brittingham and his lawyers, did not reply to requests for
Brittingham founded Advanced Armament in 1994 and has been
collecting firearms since he was 19, according to a deposition
he gave in the case.
His relationship with Freedom Group deteriorated almost
immediately after Remington, backed by Freedom Group, bought
Advanced Armament, according to court papers.
Soon after the deal closed, Remington shut down Advanced
Armament for a month after it discovered that some of Advanced
Armament's suppliers did not have federal firearms licenses, in
violation of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
requirements, according to court papers submitted by Advanced
Armament and Remington.
George Semonick, an ATF spokesman, could not confirm or deny
Around the time of Brittingham's termination, the company
said it discovered 43 firearms belonging to him on its premises,
including "machine guns, a grenade launcher, silencers and a
short barreled shotgun," Advanced Armament and Remington said in
court papers seeking to dismiss Brittingham's lawsuit.
In response, Brittingham blames Remington and Freedom Group
for failing to establish policies to ensure the company's
compliance with regulations.
SEEKING TO EXPAND
Freedom Group and Cerberus were looking to expand both
Advanced Armament's business and the market for silencers in
general, according to depositions in the lawsuit.
"Now that we have cleared the decks we have a huge
responsibility to defend and GROW AAC," then-Freedom Group CEO
Robert Nardelli wrote in a January 2012 note to Remington
officials a month after Brittingham's termination, according to
an exhibit Brittingham's lawyers submitted.
A spokesman for Nardelli, who stepped down from Freedom
Group and other roles he served for Cerberus in March 2012,
declined to comment.
Brittingham contends that Freedom Group was particularly
interested in expanding Advanced Armament into "the emerging
military market, initially in special operations and eventually
the larger military."
Advanced Armament's "key customers" included the Israel
Defense Forces and "classified U.S. Special Operations groups,"
according to a 2010 email from Jason Schauble, a former
Remington official who helped lead the Advanced Armament deal
for Freedom Group, to Nardelli and several other executives. The
email was included in court papers that Advanced Armament and
A representative of the IDF did not immediately respond to
requests for comment.
Freedom Group promised to provide the company with the
resources to "make the commercial silencer world larger," in
part by working to legalize silencers for hunting through
lobbying, according to a deposition by Schauble. Schauble,
contacted by email, declined to comment.
Silencers are legal in 39 states, according to the ATF's
Advanced Armament banded with other silencer manufacturers
in recent years to form the American Silencer Association to
lobby state legislatures and to try to improve the industry's
image. The group's website, which features pictures of hunters
aiming silencer-tipped rifles, says that silencers improve
shooting accuracy and protect hearing, among other benefits.
Earlier this year the group achieved a victory when Wyoming
Republican Governor Matt Mead signed into law a bill the group
supported that will allow hunters to use silencers. However,
Montana Democratic Governor Steve Bullock in May vetoed a
The American Silencer Association did not return requests
The case is Random Ventures Inc et al v. Advanced Armament
Corp LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New
York, No. 12-06792.