- In 2022, Salesforce unveiled software that processes and organize customer data in “real-time.”
- A lawsuit filed by a former company vice president says “it was all a lie.”
- He says Salesforce retaliated against him for raising concerns about the product claims.
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An ex-Salesforce vice president is suing his former employer, claiming the company lied about its software capabilities and retaliated against him for raising concerns about the product claims, court documents show.
Karl Wirth, who was Salesforce’s vice president of product management when he joined the company in 2020 before being promoted to senior vice president in January 2022, said in a lawsuit filed on July 28 that the company falsely advertised the capability of its Customer Data Platform (CDP).
CDP is marketing-industry speak for software that can process and organize user data to create a unique customer profile which companies can then use to advertise a product or create a personalized customer experience. Salesforce promoted that its CDP can process large amounts of customer data in “real-time,” meaning in “milliseconds,” the lawsuit says.
One benefit to real-time data processing that Salesforce advertises, for example, is when a hospital may need the most up-to-date information on a patient regarding urgent healthcare needs.
“When milliseconds matter most, your healthcare provider can deliver proactive guidance and care recommendations with access to your real-time patient data,” the company wrote.
Salesforce unveiled its CDP software, Genie, to the public on September 20, 2022. In a keynote slide attached to the court documents, the company repeats the term “real-time” four times.
According to the court documents, Salesforce said it was the “biggest announcement” it had made since the founders started the company.
But “it was all a lie,” the lawsuit says.
The court documents say the software does not operate as fast as the term “real-time” suggests, and “in fact many of its processes took several hours.”
“While it was able to execute some functions such as information collection in real time, other operations such as the processing and organizing of that data took hours to complete,” the lawsuit says.
On Salesforce’s website about Genie, the company says the software “collects and unifies data in milliseconds.”
For example, “a personalized offer on a website you’re browsing changes instantly because of something you just clicked in a marketing email,” the company writes. “Because the company uses Marketing Cloud Genie, that offer changes immediately into something that is more relevant to you than the one you’d otherwise be looking at. This convinces you to go ahead and make a purchase.”
Wirth recommended that Salesforce pursue this software capability in late 2021 or early 2022, according to court documents, but it became clear to the Customer Data Platform (CDP) team that it could not “develop the technology in time” for Salesforce’s announcement in September 2022.
The lawsuit also claimed that the CDP team “wanted to redefine the meaning of ‘real-time,’ so that it could falsely claim that the CDP operated in real-time.”
“Plaintiff reasonably believed that publicly claiming the CDP operated in ‘real-time’ without actually having (or even intending to have in the near future) such a capability would be fraudulent, and likely violate numerous provisions of Federal law relating to fraud against shareholders, as well as rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission,” the lawsuit stated.
Wirth then decided to act as a whistleblower and brought up his concerns to the CDP team and other “key executives,” the lawsuit said.
In addition, he approached his direct supervisor, Lidiane Jones, now CEO of Slack Technologies, about his concerns. The lawsuit says Jones then began a “deceitful campaign to diminish” Wirth’s reputation at the company.
One of Wirth’s last “whistleblowing activities” was a one-on-one meeting with Saleseforce’s CTO, Parker Harris, during which he brought up his concerns about the CDP team and Jones’s “use of false criticisms.”
Wirth was fired hours later, the lawsuit says.
Harris and spokespersons for Slack and Salesforce did not respond to a request for comment sent during the weekend.
Wirth is seeking monetary damages due to what the lawsuit calls Salesforces’ “whistleblower retaliation.”
His attorney did not respond to a request for comment.