Many, many things make me a geek, but the one that applies today is that I am a bit of a spy novel geek. Mysterious, nuanced, complex, maybe even a little dangerous, right? “Espionage”…the word itself just sounds cool. I like the intricacy of the battle, the subtlety of interplay and using influence to help one side and maybe hurt another.
Sounds a bit like recruiting, doesn’t it? Recruiting a key player requires gathering intelligence, knowing what’s going on inside your competitors, identifying key players and working with your exec team to close a nuanced deal. But while espionage and the idea of a recruiter as a type of market spy sounds cool, corporate espionage is not, especially when a recruiter might be part of the shadiness.
Here’s the story: Two appliance parts manufacturers are fighting it out in court, and it might cost one of the companies its livelihood. And yep, it all stemmed from a high level recruiting deal. From Canada Newswire:
Marcone charges competitor Servall with a scheme to set up a Northeast distribution network virtually overnight by hiring away several Marcone employees who left the company armed with critical customer and financial data. The misappropriated information included not only a list of 3,300 AP Wagner customers, but also all of the confidential and proprietary records concerning sales to date information, receivables and account aging, pricing, credit limits, account numbers and margin (profit) information on each customer.
This isn’t sour grapes…this is real deal illegal trade secret stuff. The story says that Marcone lost 640 customers, and two different courts ruled that Servall clearly stole from them. The courts strictly limited Servall client pursuits, and now they might have to go out of business.
So, some recruiter lifted two senior guys from Marcone with the promise of running a start up division. Along the way, though, somebody decided to take more than some extra binder clips on their way out the door. When you drop thousands of pages of pricing, margins and credit limit info in your bag, it’s not a mistake; it’s shady.
We know the execs were dirty, because they actually took the stuff, but what do you think about the recruiter? Did he play a role before or after the hire and does he carry some of the blame? There are basically two arguments:
- Not the recruiter’s fault—he was just doing his job; it’s not his problem the candidates went dirty on him. You can’t hang the sins of the candidate on the recruiter.
- The recruiter’s dirty—he either knew or should have known. To extract two senior folks out of a competitor takes months of effort, and at some point, the execs would have talked about the “value” they would bring.
Tough call, but I lean more towards hitting the recruiter, because it’s all related. If he did his job right, he would have been heavily involved from first contact to onboarding, and it’s hard to believe the idea of these jokers lifting thousands of pages of info from their previous employer did not come up.
What do you think? Recruiter as co-conspirator or clueless lackey? Neither choice is attractive, and it’s a terrible shame a bunch of innocent people are getting caught in the fallout.