Company protects itself after ex-employee copies client list

A company has been granted the right to examine a former employee’s computer and electronic devices after he admitted taking a copy of its list of clients.

The employee had been the managing director of the company, which specialised in maritime insurance claims.

The company’s case was that he had asked his assistant via email to forward to him a list of its business contacts. The following day he was called into a meeting and told that disciplinary action was to be taken against him. He was also asked to leave the premises.

He resigned the following week.

Shortly afterwards, the company wrote to him asking whether he had used the list, copied it, or disclosed it to third parties. He denied this at first but later accepted that he had copied the list on to a home computer and had made a secondary list.

The company found emails which suggested that he was being lined-up to join another insurance group. It sought an order for the delivery up of any computers, hard drives, phones or documents containing confidential information to be examined by an independent expert.

The High Court found in favour of the company. It held there was a real issue to be tried as to whether the employee had copied confidential information to help himself post-termination.

The court was not satisfied that he could be assumed to have come clean. It might turn out that he had, but he had not initially volunteered that he had taken the list at all. There was a real possibility that he had taken the list to use the information, which he must have known was confidential, and still had it on one or both machines.

A full examination should therefore be carried out.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law and protecting your business.

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