Respect your employer’s confidentiality!

Posted: 16th August 2018

Data SecurityThose who fail to respect the confidentiality of their employer’s valuable information often believe that the consequences are limited and that it is financially worth their while.

However, they may well think again in the light of a case in which an IT professional’s misdeeds earned him three lengthy terms of imprisonment.

The man worked for a company that developed confidential algorithms used in automated financial trading. Several months prior to the termination of his employment, he used his skills to bypass the company’s security measures and access to many of those algorithms.

He arranged the transfer of various pieces of computer equipment, including hard drives, to Hong Kong before flying there himself soon after leaving a resignation letter on his line manager’s desk. He was, however, subsequently extradited back to the UK, where he pleaded guilty to offences under the Fraud Act 2006 and was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment.

He was also made the subject of a Serious Crime Prevention Order that required him to disclose the whereabouts of the relevant confidential information and to identify anyone who had had access to it. After he failed to comply with that order, the company launched a private prosecution and, on being found guilty of two further offences, he was sentenced to another 18 months in prison.

The company argued that he had benefited from his crimes to the tune of over £31 million, and a £37,208 confiscation order was made against him on the basis that that sum represented his realisable assets in the UK. Effective steps were also taken to recover salary and bonuses that he had received whilst working for the company.

Civil proceedings were also issued against him and he was ordered to make full disclosure of what he had done with the confidential information. That order also elicited no satisfactory response and he was committed to prison for 13 months for contempt of court. One month of that was punitive, the other 12 being designed to coerce him into compliance with the order.

In dismissing his challenge to that prison sentence, the Court of Appeal noted that he had exhibited an absolute determination neither to apologise for his acts of contempt nor to disclose the information sought by the company. His punishment was a proportionate response to his defiance. The Home Office had made an order requiring his deportation on completion of his sentence.