Eli Lilly Scientists Accused of Stealing $55 Million in Trade Secrets

In August 2013, a grand jury in the Southern District of Indiana indicted 2 former high-level Eli Lilly scientists on nine counts of theft of trade secrets. Guoqing Cao and Shuyu Dan Li have been accused of stealing $55 million worth of Eli Lilly trade secrets for a Chinese-based competitor, Jiangsu Hengrui Medicine Co., Ltd. The multi-year plot started in 2011 and continued until this year. The two scientists and an unnamed third scientist were indicted for stealing nine separate trade secrets and are currently being held awaiting trial.

The indictment alleges that in 2010, Cao was displeased and disillusioned with his position at Lilly and submitted his resume to Hengrui. He agreed to meet with someone at Hengrui on an upcoming trip to China. The communication between the Cao and Hengrui continued after their meeting, and in October of 2010, Cao began emailing Lilly authored papers to a personal email account.

Throughout the year, Cao emailed and downloaded trade secret information on at least six separate occasions. In 2011, he allegedly forwarded Hengrui trade secret information involving Lilly’s research into LDL cholesterol, diabetes, and dyslipidemia. He then accepted a position with Hengrui in August 2011, but failed to resign from Lilly until January 11, 2012.

After Cao’s resignation, Li became the contact point. He began to send Lilly’s trade secrets to Cao, including a PowerPoint divulging trade secrets relating to metabolic disorders and testing. In 2012, Li began emailing Cao trade secrets relating to its oncology research.

Lilly’s Security Measures Were Still Not Enough

Lilly limited access to sensitive information by several means:

  • Use of security cards
  • Employee confidentiality agreements
  • Access granted on need-to-know basis
  • Limited access to computer networks
  • Utilized data security banners and policies
  • Monitored entrance points
  • Recorded campus entry access
  • Training regarding safeguarding Lilly trade secrets
  • Requirements for specific authorization to discuss confidential material outside of the company

Yet despite all of those safeguards that were well above industry standards, two of their most trusted long-term employees brazenly stole $55 million worth of valuable trade secrets for a foreign competitor.

Companies such as Eli Lilly need to consider using additional preventative security measures to prohibit employees from stealing sensitive data, trade secrets, and valuable intellectual property. This could include configuring the operating system to restrict access to external devices or blocking users from uploading information to file sharing websites.

This case is just one of over 15 cases that have been brought by the United States under the Economic Espionage Act, since the enactment of the Theft of Trade Secrets Clarification Act of 2012 and August 2013.

At Forensicon, we have the technology and the experience to help you protect your company’s most valuable assets—your intellectual personal property. With over a decade of experience, we can help you enhance your security measures to prevent internal espionage. To learn more about how our computer forensic specialists can assist your firm, call us at 1-888-427-5667 or visit us on the web at www.forensicon.com.


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