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Corporate espionage & breach of privacy

In the cases we deal with, the stakes can be high, both for the people we act for, and those we claim against.  Sometimes the methods employed by defendant companies are unlawful and can become the cause of legal action in their own right. The use of corporate espionage is one such example, which involves spying for commercial rather than national security purposes.  Thus campaigners against a particular industrial activity may be infiltrated by spies commissioned by the industry in question in order to obtain confidential information that can be used to undermine the campaign.

Case Study: Anti-asbestos campaigners v K2 Intelligence

Leigh Day acts for three prominent anti-asbestos campaigners suing Mayfair-based K2 Intelligence Ltd, its Executive Managing Director, Matteo Bigazzi, and Robert Moore.
Moore, engaged and paid by K2 to work on “Project Spring”, allegedly infiltrated and spied on the campaigners’ anti-asbestos network for the benefit of K2’s client. The network comprises eminent anti-asbestos campaigners whose activities, internationally, are focused on preventing the public health risks associated with asbestos and advancing the rights of asbestos victims.

It is alleged that Mr Moore claimed to be a journalist who wanted to make a film exposing the hazards of asbestos and to establish a "Stop Asbestos" charity, and that under this cover Moore embedded himself into the heart of the network, and from 2012 to 2016 gained access to an array of highly confidential and valuable information, which K2 passed to its client. 

It is alleged that K2’s client was an individual or entity involved in the asbestos business and that the purpose of Project Spring was to obtain information about the funding, aims and strategies of the campaigners’ network, particularly their strategies towards a ban on the import and usage of chrysotile (white asbestos) in Thailand and Vietnam, where a ban was under consideration but has not so far been implemented.

It is alleged that invoices produced by Mr Moore show that K2 paid him a total of £336,000 in fees and £130,000 in expenses. At the same time, it is alleged that Mr Moore received nearly £10,000 from his victims after claiming he had no source of income while establishing the charity.

Legal proceedings were initiated in October 2016 for breach of confidence, misuse of confidential information and breach of the Data Protection Act In October the High Court granted an injunctions against Moore, which resulted in him handing over 35,000 documents, 650 of which he claimed were passed to K2.   In her judgment on 5 December, Mrs Justice Laing stated: “I have been shown some of the emails which indicate the extent to which the first defendant [Moore] and the second defendant [K2] were engaging in a sophisticated and conscious process of manipulating particularly, I think, the second claimant [Laurie Allen], in order to enable the first defendant to insinuate himself into her confidence, so that he in turn could get confidential information from her; and I would be amazed if the client [of K2] was not aware of that strategy. So it seems to me pretty clear, on the limited information I have, that the client must have been involved in wrongdoing and that is an inference I am prepared to draw on the material I have seen.” 

The proceedings are ongoing. In addition to seeking damages, the claimants’ concerns is to prevent further confidential information being disseminated and to ascertain the extent of the damage caused to the global anti-asbestos campaign by the alleged espionage.

The business of corporate espionage seems to be expanding rapidly. Where it can be identified, legal action of the type outlined above may provide a viable means of deterrence and redress.

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