An interesting case of theft of industrial trade secrets was unveiled yesterday as news that the culprit – one Xiang Dong (“Mike”) Yu – has pleaded guilty to the charges and is facing a sentence of up to six years in prison and a fine that can reach $150,000 was revealed by TechCrunch.
Yu, a former employee of Ford Motor Company, has admitted that he has copied around 4,000 documents belonging to the company before he left the company – without notifying anyone of his plans or giving notice – and traveling to China.
The documents has been evaluated and are said to worth between $50 and $100 million, and include designs of various Ford car components such as the engine/transmission mounting subsystem, the electrical distribution system, the generic body module, and others. Almost two years after he left, he accepted a job offer with the Chinese-based Beijing Automotive Company and shared the documents with his new employer.
That was two years ago, and he was arrested in October 2009 by the FBI when a return flight to China – on which he was on – had a stop over in Chicago. At the moment of arrest, he had 41 copies of the stolen documents on his laptop.
Setting aside the fact that he is Chinese, and that that particular piece of information will be surely taken as a proof by some that China is actively working on getting their hands on every single piece of valuable information originating in the U.S., what this instance proves beyond a shadow of a doubt is that restricting employees’ access to data they don’t need to perform their job is an extremely good idea.
After all, the results of various surveys have already demonstrated that a lot of employees wouldn’t shirk from appropriating some of the data belonging to the company they work for if they are fired or offered a better job within the industry – especially in this time of recession.