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Employee Data Theft Threatens Winery's Business, Lawsuit Claims

By William Vogeler, Esq. on August 15, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Peju Province Winery is a family-owned business in the sunny countryside of Napa Valley, California.

Tony Peju and his wife Herta bought 30 acres there in 1982, cultivated and nurtured the winery, all while raising two daughters who rode bicycles and horses in the rambling vineyards. They work the business together, and invite visitors to "bask in the glory of summer."

But now the Pejus are reeling after former employees allegedly stole company information that threatens the winery's once-idyllic existence. In the information age, it is a story that happens all too often.

Data Theft

According to reports, nearly 75 percent of workers steal from their employers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says 30 percent of business failures are caused by employee theft.

Sadly, most employees "don't think twice" about stealing corporate data. One survey says more than half of them don't even think it's a crime to take data and use it in competition with a former employer.

Lawrence Bruhmuller of Symantec said ex-employees take records as a matter of course. Hackers and malicious insiders are not the only ones causing crippling data breaches.

"The everyday employee, who takes confidential corporate data without a second thought because he/she doesn't understand it's wrong, can be just as damaging to an organization," he said.

Top Down Protection

In the Peju winery case, the owners had decided to hire a president for the first time in 2015. Abdullah Vural quickly took charge by terminating the company heads of information technology and human resources and replacing them with his own people.

According to the lawsuit, Danielle Tipton and Christy Patterson copied company files and transferred information to external drives days before the owners planned to fire Vural. Tipton and Patterson then deleted their passwords and profiles, rendering the data unrecoverable, the Napa Valley Register reported.

Findlaw's Free Enterprise offers three tips to protect against employee data theft:

  • Secure data with software
  • Train workers and plan for data breaches
  • Require employees to sign non-disclosure agreements

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