As at the larger companies, Frontier requires employees to sign confidentiality agreements when they start work. Mohapatra signed such an agreement when he joined Frontier in October 2009. The scientist’s profile on the business networking website LinkedIn shows that he came to Frontier with a Ph.D. in organic synthesis from Delhi University and had worked as a research scientist at India-based pharmaceutical maker Ranbaxy Laboratories.
According to the complaint filed in Utah Federal District Court, in October 2011 a coworker witnessed Mohapatra call up the syntheses for 2,2´-dipyrromethane and Fe(III) meso-tetra [o-dichlorophenyl] porphine chloride on his company desktop computer and mail them through his personal e-mail account. Miller says the former compound is an intermediate for a drug now undergoing clinical studies, and the latter is a conductive compound in development for use in solar panels and batteries.
After the coworker reported her observations to her superiors, the firm’s information technology manager reviewed the hard drive in Mohapatra’s computer and discovered he had e-mailed those two formulas as well as two others to the president of Medchemblox, a planned Indian fine chemicals company. The complaint identifies Medchemblox’ president as an official with Dr. Silviu Pharmachem, an India-based company specializing in porphyrins and porphyrin building-block compounds. The review also turned up an e-mail from the president of Medchemblox. It told Mohapatra that the information he provided would enable Medchemblox to make a six-month supply of the iron porphyrin complex for a competitor of Frontier’s based in Germany.
On Oct. 26, Frontier placed Mohapatra on administrative leave and revoked his access to company computers. The complaint notes that Mohapatra subsequently admitted to Frontier officials that he had a stake in Medchemblox, as did his brother-in-law. Mohapatra also sent an e-mail to Frontier’s chief operating officer in which he wrote, “I realize I may have done something wrong. … Even if you lay off me [sic] or put me in jail I will not do anything to hurt FSI. I will keep out all together for myself of Frontier’s business.” Frontier fired Mohapatra on Nov. 1.
According to Miller, Frontier has an internal security system that mandates rigorous data isolation and requires, for instance, the use of multiple passwords and user-names. “We were surprised this happened,” he says.Yet another chemist that fell victim to MICE. I find it interesting that Frontier (best known by me for being in Utah) has better IT security (i.e. something) rather than the typical nothing. Corporate IT security needs to get better -- and companies need to think about whether they have trade secrets that need to be protected.
Perhaps this is buying trouble, but... the intelligence agencies during the Cold War were famous for their molehunts and their molehunters, with careers (and lives?) hanging in the balance. Is that in our future?
(Hey, what was that employee doing watching her colleague cut-and-paste (or whatever) and e-mail?)
(Did you know that ASDI went out of business? I sure didn't.)