Corporate Spies Like Us: A Peek Into a Shadowy World

From Daily Finance:

Some social critics say companies that lay off employees are doing permanent damage to themselves. After all, they’ve spent years training the workers they’re casting aside. Moreover, they may be abruptly discarding a great deal of institutional memory.

It turns out there’s another cause for concern: Laid-off workers could be a valuable source of information to corporate spies. Such spooks have been known to stage fake job interviews to ferret out information about a former employer’s ways and future plans. Even still-employed workers “can be surprisingly candid about their own company when they think they’re interviewing for a job,” writes Politico correspondent Eamon Javers.

At its best, Javers’s uneven, intermittently absorbing new book, Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy: The Secret World of Corporate Espionage, exposes a little-known world of black ops, eavesdropping, and corporate skullduggery. But the book is marred by an elastic definition of corporate espionage, stretched to include everything from routine financial investigations to ordinary detective work conducted by Kroll Associates. Worse, the volume’s historical chapters are poorly researched and larded with extraneous detail.

‘Mafiya’ Wars

Javers kicks off the book with one of his strongest stories: an account of a covert 2005 operation, Project Yucca. Conducted by private intelligence firm Diligence LLC for the Russian financial-industrial conglomerate Alpha Group Consortium, the mission entailed finding out as much as possible about Bermuda-based rival IPOC International Growth Fund. The operatives, all veterans of Western intelligence services, targeted an impressionable British-born KPMG accountant, Guy Enright.

In clandestine meetings, Diligence agents hinted that IPOC, a KPMG client, might be tied to the Russian mob — and that Enright could serve his country by turning over confidential financial documents. This he did, furtively leaving such papers at designated, secret drop-off points. Cue the James Bond theme, running through Enright’s Walter-Mitty-like brain. “It was a huge intelligence haul for Diligence,” Javers writes, “which used it to stir up problems for IPOC.” But within months, the operation was short-circuited when KPMG was tipped off by parties unknown — and the accountancy filed suit against the intelligence firm. The spook outfit, which still maintains an office two blocks from the White House, today says that it has changed its roguish ways…

[continues at Daily Finance]


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