Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why Do Business Spies Spy?

In this week's issue of Chemical and Engineering News, Marc Reisch authors a rather interesting look at the multitude of US-based multinational employees who have taken company trade secrets and intellectual property and gone east with them. After talking about Michael David Mitchell, a DuPont employee who gave his company's IP to a South Korean competitor:
Nobody has a clear fix on just how often employees steal vital confidential information from their employers. What is clear is that over the past five years six former chemical company employees have admitted to or been convicted of stealing trade secrets from their employers. In five of the cases, the employee involved was of Asian descent. And in all of the cases, the intended recipient of the proprietary information was an Asian company or university.
The reasons for the IP (Intellectual Property) theft aren’t clear either. “Those who engage in a major scam are likely to have complex motivations,” says Chris MacDonald, author of the Business Ethics Blog and a visiting scholar at the Clarkson Centre for Business Ethics & Board Effectiveness at the University of Toronto. “It’s hard to boil it down to a single factor.”
MacDonald points out that “when people do the wrong thing, it’s generally not because they lack the relevant values.” Instead, wrongdoers find ways to rationalize their behavior. For instance, employees who steal IP may believe they serve a higher purpose in committing the act, such as helping fellow countrymen or bringing the benefits of technology advances to underprivileged people.
Although the motives of those who steal corporate secrets may be complex, monetary gain was involved in most of the chemical industry cases, according to a review of court documents by C&EN. After Mitchell stopped working for DuPont in 2006, he began to work as a paid consultant for Kolon and e-mailed proprietary DuPont documents to Kolon employees. Court documents ascribe the crimes of former Dow Chemical researcher Kexue Huang mostly to greed but also to feelings of patriotism and paternalism. (more)
Why do people betray their country? MICE, of course: Money, Ideology, Compromise, Ego.