Industrial espionage has been on the rise, along with employee theft. Perhaps it is the bad economy or perhaps the overall loosening of ethics, but more employees, disgruntled and otherwise are stealing valuable proprietary data and attempting to sell it to the competitor.
French automotive giant, Renault, thought it had such a calamity where three of its employees where suspected of stealing sensitive documents related to Renault's electric car program and selling it off to the highest bidder. Onerous enough, for sure. But now there is some doubt, well more than some doubt, that there is really a case of industrial espionage against the three French employees accused of the crime. In fact, the three fired managers may be exonerated. For the record, they have always claimed their innocence.
Both Renault and French prosecutors uncovered little evidence on the three suspected employees. They failed to find the expected Swiss Bank accounts where the suspects were funneling money. Prosecutors hoped to find DNA samples on the stamps used for posting anonymous tip letters. The stamps, unfortunately, were self-sticking, so no DNA samples. There is also concern for the missing $350 thousand Renault paid to a private investigator for supposedly discovering information about the alleged Swiss Bank Accounts.
So, what is Renault left with? A fair share of public embarrassment. Renault has been accused of pulling the trigger too quickly, before significant evidence could be uncovered. Senior management may have to resign in the wake of this scandal. In any event, whether there was actual espionage or not, Renault has been seriously dinged by this incident.
In the arcane world of espionage, industrial or national, somethings to objective is not as clear as we would like. Sometimes the directive is all too obvious, and something there are hidden objectives submerged in the layers of information we tend to take at first value. What someone wants as the results of disinformation is often not as clear as we would first believe. Industrial espionage, like any other spying, is based largely in deception. The instigator seldom wants his competitor to know what he was after and what he got away with. And sometimes when the discovery of a leak is made, the operation was designed to elicit that discovery.
In corporate spying, the instigator will often us deceptive practices to cover his tracks. Or in this case, stealing secrets was not the main objective. The real objective was to disrupt Renault, cause a shakeup in management. If this was the case, according to the article in the Wall Street Journal, the perpetrators appear to have succeeded.