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August 31, 2018

Federal Criminal Liability Confusion Under CFAA

By Jonathan Etra, Christopher Cavallo

Law 360

A disgruntled employee emails business records from his company laptop to his personal email address because he is planning to start a competing business, or maybe the employee is about to quit and wants to hoard documents in anticipation of litigation. Whatever the reason, the employer later finds out, does not approve, and wants to go after the disgruntled employee in the worst way possible.

In each of these fairly common scenarios, the employer will call his business litigator and file suit in state court because the employee probably committed torts and breached his employment agreement. But did the employee also commit a federal crime?

The answer is yes, no, and maybe — it depends on the court that hears the case.