The Company Man: Protecting America’s Secrets
As part of a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of the growing economic espionage threat, the FBI has released a short video, "The Company Man: Protecting America’s Secrets." Based on an actual case, the video illustrates how one company was targeted by foreign actors and what the FBI did to help.
(Fire Engines & Emergency Vehicles)
Robert Moore: No, no, no, no.
You got to be kidding me!
Mechanic: When are you going to put this thing out of its misery?
Robert: As soon as my youngest finishes college.
Mechanic: Yeah, well, you better tell her to hurry up.
Sheila Moore: Hey, Virgil.
Robert: Thanks for coming, I can't be late for this meeting.
Mechanic: I can get somebody to drive you home.
Sheila: Oh, thanks. You really think they're going to give you this promotion?
Robert: Yeah, Preston is retiring next year, I'm the next in line.
Sheila: What if they don't?
Robert: They will.
(Cell Phone Ringing)
Robert: Robert Moore.
Jerry Fielding: Mr. Moore, this is Jerry Fielding with People Power, an executive placement service out of New York.
Jerry: I was just calling to see if you were happy with your work.
Robert: With the work, yes.
Jerry: How about the money?
Robert: I guess…
Jerry: I found your resume on LinkedIn, and I think you'd be perfect for a plant manager listing we have.
Robert: Oh really? Where?
Jerry: Advanced Insulation Industries, Shanghai.
Robert: As in China? (Chuckles)
Jerry: I don't think you'll be laughing when you hear the salary.
Robert: No, there's no way that I can move to China.
Jerry: Oh, think of it as a vacation, an adventure. You stay there three or four years, you come home with a huge nest egg, a new title… the world is your oyster.
Robert: Listen, um, I appreciate the consideration, but I'm just going to have to say no, thank you. (Wheels screech.) Jesus.
Margaret Mallory: Mr. Wei?
Jiango Wei: Hello. This is my assistant, Li Cheung.
Margaret: My name is Margaret Mallory, I'm the general counsel for RIS.
Wei: It's nice to meet you.
Margaret: Nice to meet you as well. Right this way.
Wei: All we need are a few pieces of your specialized equipment to begin manufacturing your glass insulation in China within a matter of months.
Fred Walker: Mr. Wei, I want to thank you for coming and for making your proposal, but we're already negotiating to build our own plant in China.
Wei: I understand, but working with the Chinese government can be a slow process. Without our help, it could be three to five years before your product reaches the Chinese market. This means tens of millions in lost revenue. You need a Chinese partner. We would do all the work, and we can split the profits.
Margaret: Mr. Wei, our proprietary manufacturing process is what differentiates us in the market. We cannot allow it to leave our premises. Our plan is to manufacture the insulation here and then finalize the production process in China.
Li Cheung: We understand completely. I assure you we can take whatever precautions you deem necessary.
Robert: Hi, Dennis.
Margaret: Oh, hi, Robert.
Robert: Your secretary said that I would find you here. We had a meeting scheduled for now.
Dennis: Sorry about that, Robert. I have to approve the new production line documents before we send them off. Don't suppose you know where they are?
Robert: Oh, yeah. I was hoping that we could discuss the position that's opening up when Preston leaves.
Dennis: Everyone here in management appreciates what you've done for the company, Robert.
Robert: I appreciate that Dennis, I just need to know if I have a shot at the job.
Dennis: Well, there honestly haven't been any serious discussions about his replacement yet. You will, of course, be seriously considered for the position. And I can tell you, just between us, profits and productivity are up, and that will be reflected in bonuses this year.
Robert: Oh, well, bonuses, really? Thanks, Dennis.
Wei: By manufacturing in China, you save on transportation and labor costs. It is a win-win.
Fred: Yes, yes. Gentlemen, I want to thank you for your proposal, we will keep it in mind as we consider our options.
(Whispering in Chinese)
Cheung: I apologize, may I use the restroom?
Fred: Sure, it's just down the hall to the right.
Cheung: Thank you.
Wei: So, this is a beautiful facility that you have here.
Fred: Thank you very much.
Paul: Excuse me. I found this gentleman in my office on my computer.
Cheung: I am so sorry. When I left the restroom, I saw an open computer and tried to check my e-mail.
Margaret: Thank you for coming, gentlemen.
(Knock at Door)
Margaret: Come in.
Paul: Ms. Mallory, I didn't want to say this in front of Mr. Walker and everybody, but I think that guy tried to plug a jump drive into my computer.
Paul: (Flashback scene) Excuse me?
Margaret: What exactly did you see?
Jessie Moore: Dad! Daddy! Guess what? I got into Princeton. Can you believe it?
Robert: Congratulations honey, that's wonderful!
Jessie: I'm going to go tell everyone.
Robert: Newton said I could expect a nice bonus, but he doesn't know anything about Preston's job. I got a call from a headhunter today.
Robert: Yeah, but the job is in China.
Sheila: Oh yeah, that's where we're going to move.
(Robert) Maybe we should at least think about it. We could pay for Jessie's college. Recruiter said that I could write my own ticket after a few years.
Sheila: A few years?
Robert: Think of it as an adventure. You always said you wanted to travel.
Sheila: Yeah. (Sighs)
Robert: Yeah, hi, Jerry, it's Robert. You called about a job in China? I'd like to hear a little more about it.
Plant Manager: Excuse me? Can I help you?
Cheung: Forgive us, we were lost and we saw the open gate and decided to come in for directions.
Plant Manager: Sir, you have put that phone down.
Cheung: Sorry, sorry! It all looks so interesting. What do you make here?
Wei: We have never seen an American factory, perhaps we could get a tour?
Plant Manager: You know what, I'm sorry but you're going to have to leave, okay? This way, please.
Plant Manager: Hey, I just found two trespassers taking pictures of the factory. I got their plates.
Margaret: Describe them.
Wei: Hello, Robert, good to meet you. My name is Jiango Wei, and this is Li Cheung, he is my assistant.
Cheung: I've read in the trade journals about your contributions to glass insulation technology. I'm a systems engineer, too, and I am very impressed. You've been my first choice for the position.
Robert: I'm flattered, but I just don't know how excited my wife is about moving to China.
Wei: Oh, you would not have to stay in China for long. We would ask you only to consult with us on the setup of the plant and the beginning of the manufacturing process. Then we would put you on retainer to answer any questions or solve any problems that might arise.
Robert: I am interested, but there's still a few issues that we need to discuss. I signed a non-compete with RIS when I first started; how close is your product to our glass insulation?
Wei: Your product is very good. The best available. Our goal would be to manufacture a similar product.
Robert: See, that could be a problem.
Wei: Would $200,000 lessen your burden?
Robert: (Chuckles) Yes, yes it would.
Wei: We are prepared to offer you $100,000 for the plans for the equipment and the formula for the glass insulation. And $100,000 for your assistance in setting up the manufacturing.
Robert: I don't think I can do that, isn't that illegal?
Cheung: Mr. Wei is simply making a legitimate business offer based on your considerable engineering experience. Mr. Moore, Robert. It is your life's work, your knowledge that we seek, not theirs.
Wei: But you must do what is right for you and your family. Please consider it.
Sheila: Are you going to tell the company?
Robert: What? That I interviewed with a competitor? Never mind Preston's job, I could get fired.
Sheila: Then just say no to the Chinese and we'll forget you ever had that meeting.
Robert: And what if they get the information from somebody else? It could put us out of business.
Sheila: They won't. The company can take care of itself.
Margaret: Oh, hi, Robert. Can I help you?
Robert: …So, I said no, and I left. I just want you to know I thought it was legitimate. I get calls from headhunters occasionally, but I'm very happy here, and I want you to know that.
Fred: Thank you, Robert. We really appreciate you coming forward like this. I promise you, I won't forget it. Oh, and I'm pretty sure we'll need to talk about this again later, okay?
Robert: Yes, sir, thank you.
Fred: Sure. I'm impressed he came forward. It took guts.
Margaret: Yeah. This is serious, Fred. If someone takes their bait, it could bury us. We have to call the FBI.
Fred: Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Yeah, that's just what we need, the federal government going through our business.
Margaret: We just can't pretend this didn't happen. It's a threat to the company. And what if they try to do this to someone else?
(Camera Clicking Photos)
(Cell Phone Ringing)
FBI Agent Carpenter: Special Agent Carpenter.
Well, just start from the beginning, Ms. Mallory.
His name is Li Cheung, 27, a Chinese-born naturalized citizen of the United States. He is currently attending graduate school at UCLA. He is either the nephew or cousin of Jiango Wei, 54, Chinese national, former officer of the People's Liberation Army. He owns a small company that manufactures metal doors for the domestic Chinese market.
FBI Agent Martinez: The company appears successful, but doesn't seem profitable enough to account for the purchase of this valuable land or the construction of this facility. Nor does it seem that he had any prior interest in glass insulation.
Fred: So, there's someone else behind him?
Agent Martinez: Possibly.
Margaret: The government?
Agent Carpenter: We can't connect those dots yet. But your product is one the PRC needs. The government has recently enacted some tough new commercial building regulations, and yours is one of the few insulating materials that meets the requirements for insulation and fire retardency.
Fred: I know. That's why we've been so dumbfounded by all the obstacles they've thrown in our way since we tried to get into their market.
Agent Martinez: Well, the vast majority of business with China is legitimate and good for our economy, but occasionally we run into situations like this where there is clearly a hidden agenda.
Agent Carpenter: They may try to acquire your product with or without your company's approval.
Margaret: What's the next step? Do you have a case?
Agent Carpenter: Well, we need to lure Wei back to the U.S.
Margaret: With what?
Agent Carpenter: Same thing that brought him here—your secrets. We'd like to setup a sting operation with your employee. Wei put the ball in his court; let's bounce it back and see what happens.
Fred: We're not spies, Agent Carpenter, we make insulation. I'm not putting one of my employees in harm's way for this. We're under no obligation to comply with this, are we Margaret?
And let's just say that we catch these guys and it goes to trial. They could subpoena the same documents the Chinese are trying to steal, couldn't they?
Agent Martinez: Mr. Walker, there are legal protections that would keep your proprietary information from public disclosure.
Margaret: I think that's true, Fred. The Justice Department is very careful about protecting corporate trade secrets.
Fred: But what if they're not careful?
I want to thank you for all of your help, but we're done here.
Margaret: I'm sorry—we've worked for over a decade to develop this product, and we can't risk our trade secrets becoming public in court.
Agent Carpenter: We completely understand. We're on your side and so are the courts. I haven't seen a case yet that hasn't worked with the victim's business to keep that from happening.
Agent Martinez: We've got your back on this, but we need to catch this guy. If it isn't you, it'll be another company.
Margaret: Thank you.Thanks. Appreciate you coming by.
We've got to do this Fred.
Fred: Why? We'd be taking a huge risk. And what about our stock prices when this hits the press?
Margaret: People will see we have a unique product worth protecting. Isn't that what we're paying our advertising agencies to do?
Fred: What are you doing Margaret? This just isn't like you.
Margaret: It's the principal.
Fred: (Laughs) When I bring up principal, you always bring up our stock prices. And you just took that off the table.
Margaret: Okay, so maybe I'm pissed off. Paul came by my office and said he thinks Cheung might have had a thumb drive in his hand when he caught him at his desk. We haven't spent 20 years building this company to have them steal what we've created. Besides, I like this town, and it would die if we went out of business. So screw them. Let's do this.
Robert: You want to do what?
Agent Martinez: We want to set up a sting operation, but we need your help.
Robert: Why me?
Agent Martinez: They know you. We need you to call them and say you want to make the deal.
Robert: Do you want me to do this?
Margaret: We'd like to see these guys face justice, but we don't want you to do anything you'd be uncomfortable doing.
Fred: Robert, your decision will have no bearing on your job here. We're very grateful that you brought this to our attention.
Robert: Can I discuss it with my wife?
Agent Carpenter: I'm afraid not. Only the FBI and the people in this room can know anything about it.
Robert: I'm just an engineer. Shouldn't you get somebody who is trained for this sort of thing?
Agent Carpenter: We would if we could, but they've been researching your company and reading the trades. They know the people who work here and who'd have access to what they need. Plus, before this is over, somebody is going to ask a question that only an engineer could answer.
Agent Carpenter: I'll be writing you notes during the conversation. Remember, we need him to acknowledge the illegality of the transaction. We want a specific requirements list and a delivery date.
Agent Martinez: Just do it like we practiced, you'll be just fine.
Robert: Yeah, that's easy for you to say.
Agent Carpenter: Ready?
Robert: Hello, Mr. Wei? it's Robert.
Wei: Oh, hello, Robert. Yes, it is good to hear from you.
Robert: Oh, well thank you. I'm prepared to give you the information you want for $200,000. But, I don't like the payment schedule.
Wei: How so?
Robert: Well, I only get $100,000 upon delivery. How do I know that I'll get the rest of the money when you go back to China?
Wei: Mr. Moore, you cannot expect us to give you all of the money without verifying the documents and making sure that they are complete. Now, neither one of us has recourse to the law. We are obligated to trust each other.
Robert: Well, you need me more than I need you.
Wei: We both need each other, Mr. Moore. Think of me as the solution to your tuition problem.
Robert: Yeah, okay. You got a deal.
Wei: Excellent. You will see all of your money Mr. Moore, I guarantee it. Now I understand your aversion to e-mail, but I have prepared a list of everything that we will need. And I am going to send it to you now.
Robert: I got it.
Wei: Will that be a problem?
Robert: No, that looks doable. When?
Wei: How about next Saturday?
Robert: Yeah, next Saturday sounds good.
Wei: Excellent. Mr. Cheung will arrange all of the details with you. Very good.
Agent Carpenter: We'll get to this to the analysts right away.
Robert: Damn it, did he say next Saturday?
Agent Carpenter: Yeah, why?
Robert: That's my wife's birthday. I promised to take her out to dinner.
Agent Martinez: I'm sorry, Robert.
FBI Agent: All right.
Agent Carpenter: About set?
FBI Agent: Yes sir, we are good to go.
Agent Carpenter: Thank you.
FBI Agent: All right, thanks.
Robert: How far away are you guys going to be?
Agent Carpenter: We'll be just down the hall.
Agent Carpenter: Remember, once you make the transaction, excuse yourself, go to the bathroom and lock the door, and don't come out until we come and get you.
Robert: Okay, 'til you come and get me, okay.
Agent Carpenter: Ready?
Robert: Yeah, yeah.
Agent Carpenter: Come on, you'll be great.
FBI Agent: Take a seat.
Agent Martinez: You ready for your close-up?
Robert: Ready as I'll ever be.
Agent Carpenter: Okay, I want you sitting here, Wei and Cheung over there. We have a microphone and a camera in the lamp and in the smoke detector.
Agent Martinez: These are the documents that your company has doctored for us.
Agent Carpenter: They are? Okay, thanks.
They're coming early. They're en route. Three minutes out.
Robert: Why are they early? Maybe they know, is there something wrong?
Agent Martinez: Robert, take a deep breath, it doesn't mean anything. It's not unusual, it happens from time to time. Okay? You'll be fine. Robert, you'll do great.
Agent Carpenter: Okay, let's go.
Agent Carpenter: Where are we?
FBI Agent: One minute out.
Agent Carpenter: Showtime. You think he'll make it?
Agent Martinez: He'll make it.
Agent Carpenter: What is he doing with the briefcase?
Agent Martinez: He's probably just nervous.
Agent Carpenter: I think he's going to be sick.
Agent Martinez: You want me to go in there?
FBI Agent: Thirty seconds out. They're in the building.
Robert: I'm okay.
FBI Agent: Twenty seconds out.
(Knock at Door)
Wei: Hello, Robert.
Robert: Please, please, come in. You can have a seat. Thank you.
Oh, I assume that's the money?
Cheung: Yes. Do you have the documents?
Robert: Yes. Quite frankly, I can't wait to get rid of them.
Cheung: How did you solve the high-pressure extrusion problem?
Robert: Oh, here I developed a self-calibrating hinge here...and here.
You're going to need to make sure customs doesn't see confidential on these documents, otherwise we all go to jail.
Cheung: Don't worry about it, Robert.
Robert: I am worried.
Cheung: We will take care of everything.
Wei: Here is your money.
Robert: Thank you.
Cheung: Do you need to count it?
Robert: Oh, no. I've never seen so much. I trust you.
If you'll excuse me, I just need to use the bathroom.
FBI Agent: Stand by. And go, go, go!
FBI Agents: FBI, FBI, FBI! Hands up in the air!
FBI Agent: Stand up! Stand up slowly! Turn! Turn! Turn! Stop! Don't move! Hands behind your back.
Reporter: Our top story tonight, Chinese businessman ...
Jessie: It's on! It's on!
Reporter: …pled guilty today in the United States District Court for conspiracy to steal the trade secrets of Iowa-based RIS Corporation. One of the key elements of the prosecution's case was the testimony of an RIS employee who worked undercover with the FBI. Security experts confirmed that...
Jessie: Yeah we're watching right now. My dad rules!
Sheila: I can’t believe you kept it a secret from me.
Robert: Honey, I would have told you, but I would have had to kill you.
Sheila: Oh, is that so?
Sheila: Well, I almost killed you for forgetting my birthday.
Reporter: Security experts estimate that corporate espionage and theft of trade secrets robs up to $400 billion dollars a year from the U.S. economy. But others point out that many incidents go undetected or unreported, raising some estimates to as much as a trillion dollars a year. Everyone agrees that the trend is on the rise.
Corporate Attorney, Targeted Company: It was scary how persistent they were and how they did not care that they could be caught at anytime.
Jeremiah Crabtree, FBI Special Agent, Lead Investigator: In the beginning they were, they were surprised that an Asian competitor would go to this degree to obtain their trade secret information.
Corporate Attorney: Our manufacturing facility is two hours away from the closest major U.S. city, so you think you're safe there.
Agent Crabtree: By the end, after the prosecution, I think they had a better understanding of the extent of how they had become a target.
Corporate Attorney: I can't get over the fact that those guys came into our plant—not once, but twice. They had no shame, it was, they were going to come and take this information, and if we got them one place, they were going to come at us from another place.
Agent Crabtree: It's not been a one-time target hit. It's been multiple times. Over this trusting relationship we built, we've been able to assist them in covering up some of their vulnerabilities so they're less of a target.
Corporate Attorney: I can't say enough about the efforts of the FBI. We worked with them every step of the way.
They guided us, they coached us, they listened to what our concerns were, and they addressed those concerns.
The culture shift from this experience has been that it's everybody's job to protect the intellectual property, that everybody needs to be vigilant about protecting this information.
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