Department of Justice

In Pursuit of Chinese Trade Secret Theft: Fresh Allegations Against Huawei and Chinese Military Grabs 145 Million SSNs

Loyal readers are familiar with the DOJ’s “China Initiative,” launched in November 2018 to prosecute the theft of U.S. trade secrets by or for Chinese interests. Attorney General Barr reaffirmed the DOJ’s commitment “to combat the threat posed by theft directed and encouraged by the PRC” in an address at the China Initiative Conference last month. The DOJ’s campaign recently intensified with two new, gripping indictments. READ MORE

In a Blockbuster Economic Espionage Act Prosecution, an Attempt by the Government to Hide the Ball?

An ongoing, headline-grabbing trade secret theft prosecution against a Chinese spy is also quietly presenting a, say, disquieting attempt by prosecutors to stretch the law on what it is required to plead and prove.  On the civil side, when a plaintiff sues for trade secret theft, there’s almost always a hotly contested point of proof on whether the alleged stolen material is really a trade secret.  It’s well-established, though, that when the government charges a defendant criminally with the inchoate forms of trade secret theft—attempt or conspiracy being the two spelled out under the Economic Espionage Act—the government has no burden to prove that the underlying information was actually a trade secret.  (Loyal readers will recall our recent post on United States v. O’Rourke, where the defendant tried to argue otherwise at sentencing.)  Now, in a brief filed just last week, the government seems to be taking this one step further and arguing that it has no duty even to identify the trade secrets at issue. READ MORE

Huawei Alleges “Selective Prosecution” by the DOJ

In January of this year, the DOJ indicted the Chinese telecom giant Huawei on counts of theft of trade secrets conspiracy, attempted theft of trade secrets, wire fraud, and obstruction of justice. On August 1, Huawei moved to dismiss the indictment for “selective prosecution.” Huawei contends that it is the “target of the politically motivated decision, at the highest levels of the U.S. government, to pursue the selective prosecution of Chinese companies and nationals for the alleged misappropriation of intellectual property.” In essence, it argues that the DOJ unconstitutionally seeks to punish Huawei because it is a large, successful Chinese company, not because of illegal behavior by the company or its agents. READ MORE

David Nosal Raises Unusual Fairness Argument in Yet Another Attempt to Avoid 366-Day Prison Sentence

Just over four years ago, in January 2014, a court sentenced former Korn/Ferry regional director David Nosal to one year and one day in prison for violations of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Espionage Act.  Nosal appealed the sentence, but his appeals ultimately failed: the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld Nosal’s sentence, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied review of the case.  Luckily for Nosal, his 2014 motion for release pending appeal was granted, so he has not served any time during the four years of appeals. READ MORE

Nosal Reply Brief Sets Stage for SCOTUS Cert Decision

The U.S. Supreme Court, which just began a new term on Monday with a full complement of nine justices, is expected to soon decide whether it will hear the appeal of David Nosal, the former Korn Ferry executive whose conviction under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was upheld in a controversial and closely-watched Ninth Circuit decision last year.  Nosal submitted his reply brief in support of certiorari on September 19, 2017, responding to the Department of Justice’s opposition submitted two weeks earlier.

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Accounts Frozen: DOJ Alleges Seven Defendants Conspired To Misappropriate Trade Secrets

Competition from Chinese companies shows no signs of slowing. Likewise, allegations of trade secret theft against Chinese companies are increasingly common. In this case, the U.S. Department of Justice linked allegations of trade secret theft with wire transfers from a Chinese company in order to freeze bank accounts and real property held by several defendants charged with conspiracy to steal trade secrets. READ MORE

Password Sharing Is Not a Crime, Ninth Circuit Reassures in Denial of Nosal’s Request for Rehearing

Since the early days of this blog, we’ve been covering the ongoing legal battle involving ex-Korn Ferry recruiter David Nosal as it winds its way through the courts. The latest chapter in this saga came on December 8, 2016, when a Ninth Circuit panel clarified that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) does not criminalize innocent password sharing, in a published opinion denying Nosal’s request for a rehearing en banc. READ MORE

Proving “Loss” Under the Economic Espionage Act – Not Always Straightforward

The Obama Administration’s focus on criminal trade secret prosecutions under the Economic Espionage Act (EEA) highlights the legal complexities at the murky intersection between criminal and civil jurisprudence in trade secrets cases. As we previously discussed, when it comes time for sentencing, determining the “value” of the stolen trade secrets is often difficult—and courts have applied different valuation models. READ MORE

Ninth Circuit Hears Oral Arguments in United States v. Nosal, Part II

On October 20, 2015, a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments in Round II of United States v. David Nosal.  Both sides generally stuck with arguments from their briefs, with Nosal’s counsel arguing that upholding Nosal’s  conviction under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (the “CFAA”) would lead to criminalization of relatively minor misappropriations of information, and the government arguing that the precedent would only apply in the employment context. READ MORE

A Preview of the CFAA Arguments in United States v. Nosal, Part II: Could “Phishing” be a Factor?

Oral arguments for the next round in United States v. Nosal have been set for October 20, 2015 at the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.  So we figured it may be a good time to review both sides’ arguments related to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. After doing so, it seems to us that one topic not given any consideration in the briefs, but that may play a role during oral argument is the phenomenon known as phishing schemes, and how such schemes might be compared and contrasted with the scheme alleged in this case. READ MORE