Former DuPont employee gets 42 months in prison for stealing trade secrets

April 18, 2019 |

In Iowa, Josh Harry Isler, age 55, from St. Ansgar, Iowa, was sentenced Wednesday in United States District Court in Cedar Rapids to serve 42 months’ imprisonment as a result of his July 11, 2018, pleas of guilty to one count of trade secret theft and one count of making a false statement to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“We appreciate the excellent work done by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Federal Bureau of Investigation on this matter and are pleased to see it come to a close with today’s sentencing. We will continue to focus on serving our customers, providing innovative solutions, and upholding the highest standards of ethical conduct, to protect our proprietary technology and help safeguard a competitive environment within the industry,” said Jennifer Johnson, Associate General Counsel for the Specialty Products Division of DowDuPont.

As part of his guilty plea, Isler admitted that, during August 2013, while employed with DuPont, and after having accepted an offer of employment with a smaller competitor, he stole and misappropriated, without authorization, trade secrets of DuPont. According to admissions contained in a plea agreement and evidence presented at a prior hearing in the case, Isler was recruited by a competitor of DuPont in the ethanol fuel business to take a job with the competitor. The competitor offered Isler a new car and a significantly higher salary than Isler had been paid during his short tenure at DuPont, despite the fact that Isler had been underperforming and struggling to understand basic concepts while employed by DuPont.

On the same day Isler accepted a position with the competitor, the competitor’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) informed Isler that Isler would be servicing two particular ethanol plant customers, who had also been customers of DuPont, and asked Isler if he had seen “any baseline data” for those plants. Isler responded by stating, “let me see what I can before I can’t.” In a later message that day, the COO told Isler, “I think you made the right choice.”

Isler submitted his resignation letter to DuPont the following day. However, Isler did not leave DuPont until two weeks later. During the intervening two weeks, Isler downloaded and sent to the competitor numerous electronic files that contained proprietary and trade secret information of DuPont. This included test, yield, and pricing information for products and customers of DuPont.

A few days before leaving DuPont, Isler notified the competitor’s COO that he would be turning in his company phone to DuPont. The COO instructed Isler to “erase all texts with me before giving the phone back.”

During an exit interview with DuPont, Isler acknowledged that he understood a confidentiality agreement he signed before he started work with DuPont required that Isler keep DuPont’s intellectual property private even after he left the company.

A few months after Isler left DuPont, the FBI executed a federal search warrant at his residence and seized computers and other electronic storage devices that contained proprietary and trade secret information of DuPont. At that time, Isler falsely denied to the FBI that he had downloaded, to his DuPont or personal electronic storage devices, files containing proprietary information of DuPont.

At the sentencing hearing Wednesday, United States District Court Judge Linda R. Reade emphasized that, although Isler had signed a confidentiality agreement and had been trained and counseled by DuPont concerning his obligation to protect trade secrets, he nonetheless committed several criminal violations of these obligations within about six months of being hired by DuPont. The court also expressed concern about the ethics of the competitor in receiving the stolen information.

Isler was sentenced to serve 42 months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay a $200 special assessment and a $5000 fine. The court also ordered Isler to serve a 3-year term of supervised release following completion of the term of imprisonment.

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