UPDATE: We have received a statement from Ford Global Corporate Communications Manager, Susan Krusel, which contradicts some statements in the original story by the Detroit News. Krusel writes:

"Ford initiated an investigation of a now former employee and requested the assistance of the FBI. Ford's offices were not searched by the agency; Ford voluntarily provided the information and items requested in the search warrant. We continue to work in cooperation with the FBI on this joint investigation. As this is an ongoing investigation, we are not able to provide additional details."


UPDATE #2: Autoblog spoke with David Porter, media coordinator for the FBI's Detroit field office, who was able to confirm that the statement we received from Ford is accurate. Agents from the FBI executed a search warrant at Ford offices, which involved company representatives "immediately" presenting agents with the items/information requested on the warrant.


Agents of the FBI are investigating a potential case of industrial espionage involving a recently fired Ford employee. The Dearborn, MI-based manufacturer had its world headquarters searched by FBI agents on July 11, and according to The Detroit News, had warrants to seize recording devices handed over to Ford by Sharon Leach, a now-former Ford engineer.

Leach, who had spent 17 years with the Blue Oval, was fired last month, after Ford Security relieved her of eight Sansa listening devices. The FBI got involved shortly after her dismissal, searching her home on June 20 and seizing some two dozen items, including computers, jump drives and financial records, according to warrants obtained by The News.

Ford has remained quiet on the matter, with spokeswoman Susan Krusel confirming that the automaker was working with the FBI as part of a "joint investigation," while declining to provide any additional details.

"It didn't involve anything of a spying nature." – Marshall Tauber

Legal experts are watching the case closely, as the move to search and seize items rather than issuing of a subpoena would indicate that the Feds are concerned that evidence could be destroyed.

"If it's an economic espionage case or trade secrets case, that rarely involves one individual," Peter Henning, a law professor at Detroit's Wayne State University, told The News. "So the concern is if you send a subpoena and ask for recording devices, those things can be erased."

Leach declined to comment to The News. Her attorney, meanwhile, is denying any wrongdoing and claiming the recording devices were used without malice.

"It didn't involve anything of a spying nature," Marshall Tauber, Leach's lawyer, told The News. "She wanted to record conversations of meetings she attended but didn't know how to do it. She was insecure about her note-taking."

Be that as it may, the fact that the listening devices were installed before Leach's meetings and were left in conference rooms after that, is suspicious enough that it led Ford Security to get involved.

Leach later admitted to using the devices, and claimed that she only used them to record her own meetings. According to Tauber, she said she erased them as soon as she listened to them and revised her notes.

"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," Tauber told The News. "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 hands of the US Attorney's Office and the FBI.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 26 Comments
      Larry
      • 5 Months Ago
      "So the concern is if you send a subpoena and ask for recording devices, those things can be erased." Kind of like what the IRS did with their hard drives.
        Arizonarelax
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Larry
        IRS and hard drives...LOL what a joke---I especially liked the bone-head who was explaining how hard it was to take screws out of an HP laptop! LOL! He's probably never had a blister in his life.......
        Larry Litmanen
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Larry
        Well IRS did it to save 0bama, so that's OK. He is holy you know. St. Bawack,
        knightrider_6
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Larry
        You know the funniest part about the IRS controversy - Teabaggers were claiming to be a social welfare group instead of a hateful, racist bigoted group that they really are. If Tea Party can get social welfare organization status, Taliban should apply too.
          mxpie6
          • 5 Months Ago
          @knightrider_6
          Funny how you libs wield "racist" like it's a holy sword while your foaming at the mouth with finger pointing personal judgements on a general populace.
          J
          • 5 Months Ago
          @knightrider_6
          Hey zoom zoom zoom, there's a tree in need of a big hug. Feel free to do so.
      Car Guy
      • 5 Months Ago
      They found recording devices hidden under conference room tables. If one were to believe her, why not have the recorder just sitting on the table during the meeting while in progress? don't believe her story.
        express2day
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Car Guy
        One of the defenses is that she was too embarrassed to admit she needed to record meetings and therefore "hid" the recording devices. Possible? Yes. True? Time will tell. There may be a lot more evidence against her.
      churchmotor
      • 5 Months Ago
      Poor Poor Knightrider.
      bK
      • 5 Months Ago
      Happens all the time in Asia.
      Larry Litmanen
      • 5 Months Ago
      In the past there were corp espionage cases by China in USA, but they used Chinese Americans for that. Look some dude did steal Coca-Cola formula and tried selling it to Pepsi, Pepsi alerted Coca Cola and FBI and they got the people involved. So i am not saying it is not possible, but she is an educated woman, probably was making good money................to me i think she was taking notes.
      Gary A Doss
      • 4 Months Ago

      She will make out fine  when suing Ford for invasion of privacy. This is simply  the work of wild imagination. 

      Carmaker1
      • 5 Months Ago
      This kind of thing frightens me terribly, as nearly experienced similar. I work for 2 formerly Ford-owned brands (obviously) and have been threatened with this by superiors. It was mostly over, confidential information I've given out regarding vehicle development or future product plans, in order to quell incorrect speculation online or at local dealerships. Thankfully I wasn't fired nor investigated by legal authorities. I am sure it is greatly stipulated in one's contract not to do this.
        Carmaker1
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Carmaker1
        Sorry, by "(obviously)" I meant to say (2 obviously known), as I will not directly name anything, to avoid keywords/tags attracting anyone from there.
      RGT881
      • 5 Months Ago
      I don't think she's selling secrets to Chinese for Volvo or Indians for JLR. I believe that it's purely a woman trying to stay above her competition which are her colleagues. Psychological stuff nothing more.
      Brodz
      • 5 Months Ago
      Dunt Dunt DAAHHHHHH!!!!! Care not. I'm only interested in outcomes.
      Milwaukee, WY
      • 5 Months Ago
      This article isn't very clear. Was she spying? Or was she just taking electronic notes in violation of corporate policy?
        express2day
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Milwaukee, WY
        The claim is spying but her defense is innocent audio recording at meetings. The investigation is ongoing.
          Terrence Sauvain Jr
          • 5 Months Ago
          @express2day
          Is a "Sansa listening device" a San Disk Sansa MP3 player? (That's all I could find online.) If it is, the characterization of a consumer MP3 player as a "listening device" seems like pretty irresponsible, sensational reporting.
      lrx301
      • 5 Months Ago
      That's the trouble to work for big company like Ford. If you're too deligent you may be fired for that.
      thefinalmonster
      • 5 Months Ago
      It took me a while to figure out what a "Sansa listening device" is.
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