Under federal law, it is a crime to unlawfully acquire a trade secret with the intent to benefit any foreign government or agent. Even receiving or possessing a trade secret that is known to have been stolen can qualify as economic espionage. These charges can have serious consequences, so if you are being investigated for economic espionage, it is crucial to contact an experienced white collar crime attorney who can protect your interests.
What Qualifies as Economic Espionage?
The FBI defines economic espionage as a coordinated intelligence activity sponsored by a foreign power and directed at:
- The U.S. government;
- U.S. corporations;
- U.S. establishments; or
To fall under this definition, the activity must also be designed to unlawfully:
- Influence sensitive economic policy decisions; or
- Obtain sensitive financial, trade, or economic policy information.
According to federal law, trade secrets are defined as information, which could include formulas, patterns, programs, methods, techniques, and processes that derive independent economic value from not being generally known. Furthermore, reasonable efforts must be made to maintain its secrecy before a formula or technique will fall under the category of a trade secret.
The Economic Espionage Act
Although economic espionage falls under the purview of the federal government, prosecutors are not permitted to file charges under the Economic Espionage Act (EEA) until the approval of the Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division has been sought and granted. Furthermore, all allegations of trade secret theft will not necessarily be charged as economic espionage. Instead, before deciding to initiate a prosecution, the government is required to take a series of factors into consideration, including:
- The scope of the alleged criminal activity;
- Whether there is evidence of involvement by a foreign government, agent, or instrumentality;
- The degree of economic injury suffered by the owner of the trade secret;
- The type of trade secret that was allegedly misappropriated;
- Whether the available civil remedies are appropriate; and
- Whether prosecution would serve as a deterrent to future potential lawbreakers.
In the event that federal prosecutors do decide to file charges against someone, that individual will face serious penalties, including up to $5,000,000 in fines and 15 years in prison. Defendants who are convicted of economic espionage are required to forfeit any property or proceeds derived from a violation of the economic espionage statute.
Contact an Experienced White Collar Crime Attorney Today
Economic espionage is a serious offense that is punishable by significant fines and jail time. Because there is so much at stake, it is critical for those who have been charged with this offense to speak with an attorney who can help them formulate a defense. If you are being investigated for participating in an economic crime, please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A., Criminal Defense Attorneys at 305-670-9919 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated white collar crime attorney who can explain your legal options. You can also reach us by sending a brief online message with a description of your case or by initiating a live chat with a member of our legal team.