As Mike Yu learned, industrial espionage can earn you hard time. Mr. Yu is a Chinese national with permanent residency status in the U.S. He worked as an engineer for Ford Motor Company for ten years. Before departing Ford in 2007, Mr. Yu purloined computer files containing several thousand of Ford’s sensitive documents, including design documents relating to engines, transmissions and electrical power systems. He shopped the computer files to four Chinese automakers as part of a job search and eventually worked for two of the Chinese automakers.
Mr. Yu was arrested in 2009 upon his return to the U.S. He subsequently pled guilty to two counts of theft of trade secrets. On April 12, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan sentenced Mr. Yu to almost six years in Federal prison. In the sentencing memorandum, Mr. Yu agreed that the stolen trade secrets were worth between 50 and 100 million dollars. Mr. Yu’s conviction and sentence are cold comfort to Ford, whose trade secrets still are in the hands of its competitors.
— Robert Yarbrough, Esq.