Trade Secrets: Toyota Says Former Contractor Took Data Hostage

toyota car factory

Toyota Motor Credit Corp. sued an IT contractor for stealing confidential information and “holding it for ransom” for $700,000.

Toyota claims that Herman Christensen, a former employee of Toyota’s IT vendor HCL America Inc., took Toyota’s trade secrets and other confidential information after he was fired by HCL.

Christensen allegedly refuses to return the information unless he either gets his job back or is paid the $700,000.

Christensen worked onsite at two Toyota datacenters in Arizona, as an employee of HCL. He had access to Toyota’s networks and servers, as well as administrator-level logins and passwords.

According to Toyota’s complaint,

Christensen signed a noncompete/non-solicitation agreement in which he agreed to protect HCL’s and [Toyota’s] confidential trade secret information by not disclosing it and only using it in the course of his duties for HCL. Christensen further agreed that he would not retain any confidential or trade secret information after he left HCL.

The complaint says that before Christensen was fired he took confidential Toyota information and stored it on a USB memory stick.

Trade Secret Attorney, Laura Lloyd says,

A good trade secret protection program should include employee education to stress measures taken to keep trade secrets confidential.

After he was fired, he allegedly called an executive at Toyota and told him that he had been wrongfully terminated. When the executive said that he could do nothing to help, Christensen noted that he still had Toyota’s confidential information.

When HCL contacted Christensen and demanded return of the information, Christensen demanded in return that he be guaranteed employment until age 67 or be compensated with damages for the “lost” period of employment.

Toyota asked the court to order Christensen to return the information immediately. The company also asked the court to award damages and attorney’s fees.

If you are concerned about an employee leaving your company with valuable trade secrets or want to be sure you have the maximum trade secret protections in place, call us today for a free initial consultation.

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Photo Attribution: “Toyota Car Factory, Burnaston, Derby” by Mike Smith is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Licence.

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