French automobile manufacturer investigating three employees 'with extremely strategic positions' at the company

Dark Reading Staff, Dark Reading

January 7, 2011

2 Min Read

Renault is at the center of a potentially major industrial espionage case: The French car maker says it has suspended three company executives after a months-long investigation revealed they had been "consciously and deliberately endangering the company's assets," according to the company's general counsel.

Just what the execs stole or shared is unknown, but Reuters reported that the concern is it was information on Renault's electric vehicle technology, a program for which it has partnered with Nissan. Nissan has invested around $5.3 billion in the program, according to the report.

Eric Besson, industry minister in France, told journalists the case was related to electric vehicles. "I have asked the economy ministry administration ... to strengthen the requirements for protection of companies that ask for state aid and financial contributions for innovation," he said in the Reuters report.

Meanwhile, a Renault spokesperson declined to confirm just how the information was removed or leaked -- via the Internet or a USB drive, for instance -- but Christian Husson, general counsel and compliance officer at Renault, issued this statement:

"The suspension of three group executives was decided following an investigation launched by the Renault group’s compliance committee. The procedure is fully standardized, highly rigorous and entirely in line with the ethical principles of our Group. The investigation, which lasted several months, enabled us to identify a body of converging evidence demonstrating that three Group employees have committed misconduct that infringes Renault's ethics, consciously and deliberately endangering the company’s assets.

Renault decided to take action because these are serious acts concerning people with extremely strategic positions at the Group. Their acts justify this suspension, the first aim of which is to immediately protect the strategic, intellectual and technological assets of our company. In accordance with labor laws Renault will preserve the identity of the three persons concerned. The investigation is underway. We are examining all legal options, which will inevitably result in legal action, but at this point, Renault will make no further comments."

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