As part of a company, you may easily – and accidentally – be involved in the commission of a financial or information related crime. From disclosing too much or too little information in a business transaction to putting your own personal interests before those of your company and/or clients, white collar crimes are commonly mistaken for street wisdom or simply being “ahead of the game.” It is imperative to constantly analyze the potential consequences, both legal and economic, of your business actions and investments as part of a company, especially when these activities compromise the information that has been entrusted to you.
What Is Confidential Information?
Confidential information, although widely discussed, has a very broad definition. From a high-level standpoint, it’s the data that is disclosed by a company, clients, suppliers or third parties to employees of a certain company so that they can do their jobs. It also relates to the know-how acquired by employees as part of their work, including things like product recipes, trade secrets, or software that is in development. In addition, all other information that’s labeled as either privileged or confidential comprises information that is protected and owned by the company or disclosing third parties.
How to Protect Confidential Information
To prevent disclosing such information or committing a crime, you must be aware of the current limitations on the disclosure of such information. It is very common for companies to force employees to sign whether a non-disclosure-agreement (NDA) or a non-disclosure, non-use, non-circumvention-agreement (NNN) to protect the confidential information that is disclosed to its employees. You should retain a copy of such agreements and reference them when handling or disclosing sensitive and valuable data.
It is strongly advised that you be aware of these limitations so that you protect your company’s assets. It is also advised to consult a legal advisor when in doubt of the nature and restrictions involved in a business decision that relates to confidentiality.
The Consequences of Mishandling Information
There are numerous criminal offenses strictly related to the misuse of confidential information. The most common are:
- Cyber crimes
- Disclosure of confidential information
- Insider trade crimes
- Theft of trade secrets
The consequences for these actions are severe. There are monetary fines, penalties and compensation sums derived from these activities. These numbers can often exceed several million dollars
How to Stay Safe
The most important skill to master is how to properly differentiate between regular information and confidential information. Labeling privileged or confidential information is crucial, and highly valued when shown as proof in court. Numerous criminal cases are dropped when the victim of the disclosure is unable to prove the “status” of confidential of a certain piece of data.
Another important aspect on making out the difference between public and confidential information is common sense: an employee of a fast food company is aware that everybody knows the ingredients of their best-selling hamburger (public). The recipe for their special ranch sauce, on the other hand, is only known by the key employees on the distribution center (confidential).
Contact an White Collar Crimes Defense Attorney If You’ve Been Accused of Leaking Confidential Information
If you’ve been accused of leaking confidential information, you need to contact an attorney well-versed in business law as soon as possible. Schnipper Law is here to help.