A whistleblowing employee of a Huawei subsidiary is suing the biz for $100m over claims the Chinese networking kit maker infiltrated meetings at Facebook HQ in the US – and stole rivals’ trade secrets before sending them to China.
Jesse Hong alleged, in court documents, that Huawei and subsidiary Futurewei Technologies ordered him and two other staffers to “register using fake US company names” to gain entry to meetings at the Telecom Infra Project’s 2017 annual shindig.
Facebook, which was hosting the conference at its HQ in Menlo Park, California, had banned Huawei from attending private meetings it had organised with other companies, including US startup competitors of Huawei’s.
When Hong, a principal architect at Futurewei, refused to register for those meetings under a fake company name – something he saw as “illegal and fraudulent” – he alleged that his manager, Shiao Yang Chen, went ahead, along with a co-worker named in court documents only as “Sam”, and sneaked into the meetings anyway.
The information that the two gathered was said to have been put into a Huawei “TIP Summit” report which was transferred “to product teams in China”. The information included competitors’ integration plans as well as information “Sam” allegedly gathered by doing consulting work for IOpipe, CloudGenix and Galactic Fog.
In November 2017, immediately before the summit, Hong had reported his boss to Huawei HR. Court documents seen by El Reg allege that Huawei’s sole response was an email sent around the company in March 2018 “asking if anyone possessed any competitor’s confidential information”.
Two days after that email was sent, Hong was laid off. He claimed that Chen had been bullying him at work since 2015 and gave examples of alleged abusive remarks made by Chen to him, including “having hair means not working hard”, racial slurs against others in his team and, right before he was sacked, “You don’t have to come in tomorrow. I will pay you till end of next Friday.”
Hong alleged that his severance package included a requirement for him to drop his case against the company in return for a sum of money “less than his accrued bonus which would have been payable the following month”. He also said that Huawei HR investigator D Ray did not show him a copy of a report into his complaints of bullying and whistleblower retaliation at work, making him suspicious that “the employees who engaged in misconduct were not terminated”.
Hong is suing Huawei for whistleblower retaliation, racial discrimination, harassment and unfair competition in the Santa Clara Superior Court, as first reported by the East Bay Times. He is claiming $5m in lost wages and benefits and $100m in punitive damages, plus legal costs.
Huawei did not appear to have filed a response to the suit by the time of writing. ®