THE ECONOMIC ESPINOAGE
By Robert Scott
Author Of: The Investigator's
Little Black Book
Private Investigators in every state need to familiarize themselves
with the Economic Espionage Act of 1996. Certain activities that might
be conducted by private investigators including certain types of
competitor intelligence could constitute a violation of the Act and
carry a penalty (for individuals) of up to a $500,000 fine and/or 15 years
in Federal prison.
On Thursday evening, January 23, Special Agent Richard J. Haidle of
the FBI'S Los Angeles office addressed the Los Angeles chapter of CALI
(California Association of Licensed Investigators). The following is a
brief summary of his presentation:
The Economic Espionage Act of 1996 (USC Title 18, sections 1831 - 1839)
makes it a Federal crime to obtain through unauthorized means any type
of trade secret where release of said trade secret will cause economic
harm to its rightful owner.
Unauthorized means includes usage of pretexts, undercover employees
(when t heownership of the company does not have knowledge of the undercover
agent) and development of confidential informants where the informant is
providing information about trade secrets.
Not covered by the bill and still allowable methods of investigation
include the gathering of information from publicly available sources.
"Trade Secrets" is a widely used term that generally includes
any information that is proprietary in nature and has not been publicly
disseminated by the company, and whose release could cause economic harm
to the company. Obviously, this would include formulas, designs, and prototypes.
Agent Haidle also believes that proprietary client lists or customer databases
would also likely fall under the umbrella of "trade secrets".
On the reverse side, investigators conducting investigations of theft
of trade secrets on behalf of the victim now have a new tool to bring serious
criminal consequences upon the persons responsible for the theft. A disgruntled
employee who walks off with his company's (proprietary) client list and
threatens to start his own company might be subject to prosecution under
the Economic Espionage Act.
Need more information? Contact your nearest FBI field office and ask
to speak to the ANSIR (Awareness of National Security Issues and Response)
coordinator. Fifty three local FBI offices have an ANSIR coordinator, so
hopefully yours is one of them. The national ANSIR coordinator is Supervisory
Special Agent Larry Watson, (202)324-3000.
DISCLAIMER: This post is not intended to be a comprehensive review
of the new law, nor legal advice, but rather just to pass on some important
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