Last month the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania announced the second guilty plea from one of five individuals charged with conspiracy to steal trade secrets from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) a U.S. pharmaceutical company. According to the press release the theft occurred in order to benefit a Chinese company backed by the Chinese government.
LAUNCH OF INVESTIGATION
This FBI criminal investigation was initiated like so many others–somebody heard the criminal directly or indirectly brag about what they were doing.
Here’s essentially a quote from the criminal complaint:
“Informant #1 stated that Defendant #1 (“Joyce’s”) twin sister (and also a defendant) bragged about being hired by a Chinese pharmaceutical company and stated she was being paid very generously.
“Informant #1 also stated that their mother, who resides in the People’s Republic of China, was also being paid approximately $165,000. a year from a Chinese pharmaceutical company.
“Joyce’s twin sister bragged to Informant #1 that a ‘big payday’ was coming in the future from the Chinese pharmaceutical company.”
- FBI served search warrants on Google for personal e-mail account information for all five defendants which was subsequently provided
- Search warrants were issued to search the work areas of the two GSK employee-defendants to include their computers
- GSK scientists assisted the FBI in identifying proprietary GSK trade secrets embedded in the defendants’ emails
- The FBI also retained an independent expert (not associated with GSK) who came to the same conclusion
IP PROTECTION OBSERVATION
Although we don’t know how this informant came to the FBI’s attention from a review of public court records, it appears the informant overheard, or, had a conversation with “Joyce’s” twin sister. But, regardless of where it occurred, we cannot overstate the fundamental importance of employees in such trade-secrets-packed companies to pay attention to what others say around them.
“If you hear something, say something.”
Don’t immediately dismiss absurd sounding comments–as absurd. Often criminals cannot help telling others how smart they think they are.
Trade secrets protection “mindfulness” is key.
IN THE FINAL POST…Part 5…
…we will update the status of the defendants (to the extent that information’s available), and share some final thoughts about this endemic problem and how companies can shield against it.
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