Friday, February 12, 2016

I wonder if layoffs inspire disloyalty...

In the midst of an absolutely phenomenal read by Del Quentin Wilber in Bloomberg Businessweek about a plot to steal DuPont titanium dioxide processes by a Taiwanese businessman, Walter Liew, (in association with a Chinese chemical firm), something that sounds pretty darn familiar...:
They found Tim Spitler, a 49-year-old former DuPont engineer living in Reno, Nev...  
According to the FBI documents, the relationship between Liew and Spitler lasted for years. Liew flattered Spitler, who was bitter about DuPont’s business strategies and its decision in the ’90s to fire thousands of employees. Spitler also admitted to agents that he felt insecure about not having attended a top university (he got a degree from Tri-State University in Angola, Ind.) and was constantly worried about losing his job. Liew made Spitler feel valued and understood. He sent him a gift basket every Christmas, the FBI reports show, and helped pay for the funeral of Spitler’s daughter, who’d committed suicide in 2006. When Spitler would call to thank Liew for his generosity, the businessman would steer the conversation to business and titanium dioxide. 
Spitler provided Liew with information about DuPont’s processes—even sketches of key components—and allowed him to root through boxes in his house and take whatever records he found. Spitler told federal agents that Liew paid him $15,000 for DuPont-related documents, including a blueprint to a plant in Delaware. The schematics provided details of flow rates, pipeline sizes, temperatures, and chemical compositions. As such, it was considered one of DuPont’s most critical trade secrets, U.S. law enforcement officials contend, and Liew used the documents to prove his bona fides to Chinese executives.
Spitler killed himself after Walter Liew was arrested in 2012.

It seems apparent to me that DuPont's reliance on the law to keep their current and former employees from leaking valuable company secrets was not very effective in the face of someone who was a seemingly talented intelligence officer.*

I wonder if a kindler, gentler approach to layoffs may have inspired a little more fidelity. Maybe some day, some company will run that experiment - I am not holding my breath.

*In case anyone is keeping score, it's apparent that of Money, Ideology, Compromise and Ego, it was a combination of Money, Ideology and Ego...


  1. DuPont is reaping what they sow. They certainly don't have any loyalty to anyone or anything other than the next quarter's earnings. That plant in Delaware is shutdown because it wasn't efficient enough to compete (Dupont's description).

    So I suppose that it can be argued that the plans he gave to China weren't all that valuable in the scheme of things.

  2. It looks like the talent level of Liew was pretty good. A little research shows that there was a second former Dupont employee (Maegerle) involved that was hammered for over 2 years of prison time too. I prefer the RASCLS acronym for motivation: Reciprocation, Authority, Scarcity, Commitment/Consistency, Liking and Social Proof. From the post alone without research that Spitzer had the R, S, C, L and S down pretty hard in that Liew provided money and false friendship (liking and social proof) for Spitzer's information.

  3. My company is shooting itself in the foot by not laying people off humanely. I've been through many time-consuming hassles that could have been resolved with a 5-minute phone call to my former boss had he left on good terms. Instead of nudging him into retirement, our idiot HR manager completely burned bridges with him.