By on July 28, 2014


A former Ford engineer is currently under the gun amid espionage claims levied by the automaker with the help of the FBI.

Autoblog reports the Blue Oval called upon the agency in the former’s investigation of Sharon Leach after security found and seized eight recording devices used in her meetings with her now-former colleagues. In turn, FBI agents arrived at Leach’s home with warrants to seize more such devices — along with computers, jump drives and financial records — fearing whatever may be on them would be destroyed if the agency issued the former engineer a subpoena.

Though Leach has yet to state anything publicly, her attorney, Marshall Tauber, says she used the devices in note-taking:

I think you’re dealing with a person who was seeing how sharp the new kids are and maybe feeling a need to keep up with them. And maybe she realized that she’s not as attentive as she once was and needs a little assistance. Maybe her memory was failing her on the technology end but she didn’t want to admit it.

The case is now in the purview of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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19 Comments on “Fired Ford Engineer Under FBI Spotlight On Espionage Claims...”

  • avatar

    When the whole torture thing broke out, the CIA made it clear that they destroyed their hard drives and videotapes in order to keep the evidence of getting out.

    They actually said that regardless how much fallout would come from Congress over the destruction of the evidence that the penalties would be nothing compared to what they would’ve been if the evidence was recovered.

    Apparently Louis Learner learned from that.

    The government should have special-teams of data investigators ready to strike the moment a warrant is issued. With a portable hard drive being only $130 but able to hold 4 TB worth of information- hours upon hours of indictable video fit in just the palm of your hand.

  • avatar

    Talking about a company with a big head. What is the engineer going to steal? The plans to chrome the hood and grill on the next Explorer? The Detroit auto industry is just a bunch of old technology that is not worth anything. Cars are a commodity with tiny profit margins. If not for Obama’s automotive industry handouts, few, if any, Detroit automakers and suppliers would be able to turn a profit. The inproved profit margins from Detroit are a result of government financing, special tax code treatment, and bailouts. Detroit has no leading edge technology that can pad profit margins. Nothing like some good old state socialism. Ford, it is unlikely you have technological secrets worth stealing. However, it is possible the Detroit auto industry has special deals with US politicians that needs to be kept secret.

    Stay posted. Next, the FBI will be after a Maytag engineer for stealing refrigerator secrets.

    • 0 avatar

      If you are a Chinese or Indian auto company with cars that superficially look like modern autos, but with technology and production methods that are about a decade behind, any major automaker has prizes worth taking.

      And of course, financial records are valuable to just about anybody… (competitors, hedge funds, market intelligence firms, etc.)

      • 0 avatar

        If Detroit is worried that Chinese and Indian auto firms are in pursuit of their market share, then clearly they have little patent worthy technology that can differentiate themselves from others.

        However, the leakage of earning reports can be important.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t normally read comments. But every once in a while I do, and then I read something like jimmyy’s rant and realize I’m really not missing anything by not reading them.

  • avatar

    “Autoblog reports the Blue Oval called upon the agency in the former’s investigation of Sharon Leach after security found and seized eight recording devices used in her meetings with her now-former colleagues”

    It could be more a matter of office politicking than industrial espionage.

    In a company or department with a particularly toxic culture, some of the worst happenstances never have a paper trail, and it behooves a vulnerable employee to record his/her conversations so that he/she isn’t left holding the bag.

    • 0 avatar

      I suspect you’re right. Toxic is the keyword. I hope Ford is not going back to the bad old days of CYA as its MO.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I agree with psar. Sharon Leach was a 43 year old mechanical engineer at Ford. It appears that she was making audio recordings of meetings in a conference room including meetings that she didn’t attend. Security noticed her leaving and retrieving SanDisk Sansa recorders. She would have been recording the type of management stuff that occurs face-to-face in meetings that frequently doesn’t leave a paper trail. Most of the real engineering content of the meetings would have been computer files displayed visually.

  • avatar

    That lawyer statement with all the “maybes” in it makes her look more guilty. He should have just not said anything!

    Side note: I like Ford’s HQ much better than GM HQ. Ford looks like something from a well-maintained Mad Men era, and GM looks like an evil corporation from a bad 80s action flick.

    • 0 avatar

      Man I WISH GM’s headquarters looked like the OCP building from RoboCop, because then the “GM is OCP” comparisons would just be that much more obvious.

  • avatar

    I’d just like to mention the “She’s just a poor, forgetful, little ‘ol lady intimidated by all those young bucks” defense is not going to do her career any good if acquitted.

  • avatar

    IIRC a Chinese national working in engineering at Ford was convicted of stealing IP a few years ago.

  • avatar

    Recording a meeting that one is attending is no big deal as long as everyone knows it is happening. The point is – everyone legally has to know.

    One can say “sorry didn’t know” if you were recording just for post meeting note taking BUT it is a blatant invasion of privacy when recording meetings that you were not personally attending.

    Whether or not a car company has proprietary patented technology worth stealing is irrelevant. It is intellectual property of the company.

    The most damaging information to steal and probably worth more money is future development plans for products and emerging markets.

  • avatar

    The FBI came to get back their listening devices now that Government Motors has all the information it needs.

  • avatar

    Z71_Silvia is slipping. A Ford thread without his usual spam.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    No, the points here are not to debate MS. Leach’s intellectual capacity or if some part of Ford’s managerial hierarchy is filled with dastardly villains. She probably signed some kind of Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) when she went to work for Ford. Words spoken at a company meeting, on company time? Included in her NDA. Discussions of the great sandwiches ordered for the meeting? Ford property too and covered under an NDA. Did she take tapes of Ford meetings home? ( I can’t wait for those to hit you tube-sarcasm.) That should be a clear violation of her NDA. I’m sure I’m not the only one here who’s signed an NDA. I’m just glad I’m not the person who let her get out of the glass house with her personal recordings/recoding devices.

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