Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Four Textbook Business Espionage Case Histories

This past year, the FBI has observed a stark increase (53%!) in the amount of corporate espionage cases within the United States... the FBI has pointed out that a major concern in corporate espionage today are “insider threats” – essentially, employees who are knowledgeable of confidential matters are being recruited by competitor companies, and foreign governments in exchange for large amounts of money at much higher rates than ever before. 

Walter Liew vs. DuPont – “titanium dioxide”
In July 2014, Walter Liew, a chemical engineer from California, pleaded guilty to selling DuPont’s super secret pigment formula that makes cars, paper, and a long list of other everyday items whiter to China.

Starwood vs. Hilton
In 2009, Starwood Hotels accused Hilton Hotels of recruiting executives out from under them and stealing confidential materials... Starwood alleged that the ex-employees had stolen more than 10,000 documents and delivered them to Hilton – the worst part being that Starwood didn’t even notice that the documents were missing until after the indictment.

Microsoft vs. Oracle
In June 1999, Oracle hired a detective agency called Investigative Group International (IGI) to spy on Microsoft – it was headed by a former Watergate investigator, if that says anything... IGI, following Oracle’s orders, sifted through Microsoft’s trash (a practice also known as Dumpster Diving)...

The following May, the same happened. This time, IGI focused its investigations on the Association for Competitive Technology, a trade group; IGI arranged for a random woman to bribe ACT’s cleaning crew with $1,200 in exchange for bringing any office trash to an office nearby – of course, the office was a front for IGI.

Steven Louis Davis vs. Gillette
In 1997, Steven Louis Davis, an engineer helping Gillette develop its new shaving system, was caught faxing and emailing technical drawings to four of Gillette’s competitors...

Sadly, these economic espionage cases aren’t shocking to most corporate executives; it’s not uncommon for rivalry companies to dumpster dive, hack, bribe, and hire away key employees. In a rush to push out new products, major corporations will do just about anything to defame their competitors. And, although a few of these cases stem from the 1990s, their spirit still holds today – as the FBI has noted that corporate espionage is no where near slowing downmore