Former DuPont employee admits passing trade secrets to China


A former DuPont employee who spent more than three decades with the company entered a guilty plea for conspiring to steal trade secrets about a technology developed by his employer. The man admitted taking the proprietary information in order to help a state-owned Chinese company develop a similar process.

The suit stems from a process to make titanium dioxide, which is a white pigment with a variety of applications. The man who pleaded guilty worked with the technology while at DuPont, and when he left after his long stint there, went to work as a consultant with the Chinese company, Pangang. The man's consulting company bid on a plant contract offered by Pangang, asserting that it had DuPont's technology.

The penalties for this type of economic espionage are severe: 15 years' imprisonment, a fine of half a million dollars and additional restitution if ordered by a judge. However, the 77-year-old man is now cooperating with the government so his sentence could be reduced.

The case has other defendants, including a California businessman and his wife, another former DuPont employee, and the Panang Group, but their charges have not yet been resolved.

DuPont has typically been very guarded with its technology; it long refused to share its technology, either by licensing it or selling it outright, to Chinese companies. The man who pleaded guilty no doubt pledged in writing not to steal or otherwise disseminate the company's trade secrets. After his guilty plea, however, it seems likely that DuPont would seek damages from him for doing just that.

Source: Bloomberg, " Former DuPont Worker Pleads Guilty in Economic Espionage Case," Karen Gullo, Mar. 1, 2012