Huawei Offered T-Mobile Workers Bonuses for Trade Secrets - DOJ

Credit:  astudio/ShutterstockCredit: astudio/ShutterstockThe U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets from U.S. wireless carrier T-Mobile, as well as committing wire fraud and obstructing justice. The U.S. government had already orchestrated the December arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada.

Huawei’s Indictment by Grand Jury

This week, the DOJ unsealed a 10-count indictment of Huawei, charging the company with theft of trade secrets conspiracy, attempted theft of trade secrets, seven counts of wire fraud and one count of obstruction of justice. The indictment was approved by a Grand Jury on January 16.

According to the indictment, Huawei was offering T-Mobile employees bonuses to steal trade secrets from T-Mobile between 2012 and 2014. T-Mobile threatened to sue the company; however, Huawei "produced a report falsely claiming that the theft was the work of rogue actors within the company and not a concerted effort by Huawei corporate entities in the United States and China," thereby obstructing justice, according to the DOJ's announcement this week.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said Huawei was trying to gain an “unfair economic advantage” by breaking U.S. laws. He added that “the FBI will not tolerate corrupt businesses that violate the laws that allow American companies and the United States to thrive.”

Huawei Trying to Get Ahead

According to the FBI, Huawei has been trying to get ahead by offering employees of various companies around the world bonuses based on the value of information they stole. The employees would then send this information to Huawei via encrypted email.

Huawei faces a fine of up to $500,000 for wire fraud and obstruction of justice and up to $5 million for conspiracy and attempt to commit trade secret theft, if found guilty in the court of law.

Canada’s authorities, in cooperation with the U.S. DOJ, arrested Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou late last year. Wanzhou is both a Huawei deputy chairwoman and the daughter of Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei. The arrest was linked to charges that Huawei violated U.S. sanctions against Iran. At the time of the arrest, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) said that China has been “working to creatively undermine our national security interests.”