Microsoft accuses former manager of stealing 600MB of data

Microsoft is accusing a former manager of taking 600MB of confidential documents with him when he left late last year. Former manager at Microsoft, Matt Miszewski, is being accused of having a "large trove of materials - 600 megabytes of information comprising over 900 separate files (estimated at 25,000 pages)," according to Computerworld.com.

When Miszewski left his position on December 31, 2010 to accept a senior vice president job with Salesforce.com, he took a large stash of confidential documents with him. Miszewski claimed he had only taken personal items with him, but Microsoft later discovered the large document cache on his personal computer, which contained roughly 25,000 pages of confidential documents, roughly 600MB of data.

The confidential documents contained a number of cloud computing strategic plans, products, and services for 2011; a valuable asset to Miszewski new company, Salesforce.com.

Since the discovery of the documents on Miszewski personal computer, Microsoft motioned the courts to change his existing temporary restraining order to a longer term preliminary injunction, that would continue to block Miszewski from working at Salesforce.com.

"It defies reason to assume that Miszewski could perform his new role at Salesforce.com without using Microsoft's extensive confidential information, and Miszewski has already evidenced a clear disregard for both his non-compete obligation and the integrity of Microsoft's confidential materials."

Salesforce.com offers cloud-based services for businesses, personal and even mobile computing. The company directly competes against Microsoft's Azure service.

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So how did they find out he had this data on his personal computer? If it was a work computer on the MS network I could see that, but someone would have to have acquired this information from his personal computer illegitimately.

CoMMo said,
So how did they find out he had this data on his personal computer? If it was a work computer on the MS network I could see that, but someone would have to have acquired this information from his personal computer illegitimately.

Or they have logs of him transferring said data in his last days at the company? Perhaps even from home?
Come on, use your imagination. You can't pretend like it's impossible to know. What do anti pirates do? ...

To be honest with you, if you look at the guy, he looks like a crook. The reason why certain employee's leave Microsoft is to become executives in high positions at other companies. Its all about power and upward mobility, looks like the Manager job wasn't cutting it anymore. Matt Miszewski weight in gold for that position at Salesforce was 600 MBs worth of strategic data.

This is why working in the IT field especially in the West is so incestuous where everyone is being seduced to working with their competitors because of the limitations of non-compete agreements and the knowledge gained for competitive advantage. No doubt, Miszewski was given a bigger title and a bigger salary to leave MS and work for Salesforce. The questions are can he leave this incident unscathed and what will the effects be to Salesforce in general.

I don't really understand how a non-compete agreement can stand up in court (except in this case where actual documents are involved. This case is different).
But what do Msft expect you to do, wipe your brain? Forget everything you've read and worked on over the past x number of years just so that you can't take that knowledge with you?
How can a court rule on something that's in your head?

Hackersoft MS MVP said,
I don't really understand how a non-compete agreement can stand up in court

Wikipedia says "as the clause contains reasonable limitations as to the geographical area and time period in which an employee of a company may not compete" it is typically legal.

So the idea here is that he had strategic knowlege of what Microsoft plans on doing in 2011, it would be reasonable for the clause to pertain to 2011 only.

Vannos said,

So the idea here is that he had strategic knowlege of what Microsoft plans on doing in 2011, it would be reasonable for the clause to pertain to 2011 only.

Still it comes down to the courts ruling based on what is in your head. How can they prove that I can remember X or Y? Also could you then counter sue for loss of income as they are blocking you from working?

Hackersoft MS MVP said,

Still it comes down to the courts ruling based on what is in your head. How can they prove that I can remember X or Y? Also could you then counter sue for loss of income as they are blocking you from working?

Ignorance of the law (or contract) is not an excuse.

Alex Khristov said,

Ignorance of the law (or contract) is not an excuse.

Are you claiming that contracts are 'set in stone' (unchangeable)? If so, where's the evidence to support this claim?

Also, what evidence is there of a meeting of the minds?

Hackersoft MS MVP said,

Still it comes down to the courts ruling based on what is in your head. How can they prove that I can remember X or Y? Also could you then counter sue for loss of income as they are blocking you from working?

A company doesn't want to give you all of their confidential information and put time into training you just so you can go to a competitor that wants to get that information. They're not trying to lock down your experience or your ideas. They just don't want you spreading their company's data and procedures.

This guy is so foolish for doing this with Microsoft of all companies.

iKenndac said,
I think the idea is that you don't go and work for a competing company.

No one can take that legal right to work away from anyone...period.

See my note above regarding the general un-enforceability of NCAs.

Davo said,

A company doesn't want to give you all of their confidential information and put time into training you just so you can go to a competitor that wants to get that information. They're not trying to lock down your experience or your ideas. They just don't want you spreading their company's data and procedures.

This guy is so foolish for doing this with Microsoft of all companies.

Salesforce is headquartered in California which does not recognize non-competes except in extremely specific cases involving trade secrets which these documents will likely let them trigger. Without the documents Microsoft would have a hard time enforcing it and likely he thought he could get away with it.

excalpius said,

No one can take that legal right to work away from anyone...period.

See my note above regarding the general un-enforceability of NCAs.


its common practise in Europe and its enforced here. Altho its mainly on the high end jobs.
if you sign a contract, you sign a contract. Break a contract and you break the law.

1+1=?

Shadowzz said,

its common practise in Europe and its enforced here. Altho its mainly on the high end jobs.
if you sign a contract, you sign a contract. Break a contract and you break the law.

Yeah, I'm in Sweden, and my employment contract says that I'm not allowed to go work for a direct competitor to my employer for at least six months after I leave for any reason. It's to help stop headhunting for secrets, I guess.

I wonder what could happen if they find some sorta connection between this event and Salesforce.com directly, boy would that be something. MS's legal team would have a field day with this.

"The confidential documents contained a number of cloud computing strategic plans, products, and services for 2011; a valuable asset to Miszewski new company, Salesforce.com."

You forgot the 's after Miszewski

This borders on complete stupidity on his part. According to his LinkedIn profile, he has a law degree and should be fully aware of the legal implications of his non-compete obligations. Furthermore, many employees are assigned work laptops and work cell phones on employment and should be returned when they leave. It is not clear how MS discovered this data on his PC unless Miszewski left digital footprints that easily lead to him. In any event, I expect a very short employment with Salesforce and very short legal battle with MS.

As a lawyer, he'd know that all but the most narrowly defined non-compete agreements are UNENFORCEABLE in any court of law.

Most companies get you to sign NCAs in order to instill fear in employees...and it works.

Wait, how did Microsoft discover these documents on his personal computer after he had already left the company? That in itself sounds suspicious to me.

edit: nevermind, it is in the original article. He was required to turn over the information as part of discovery when he was sued by them for violating a non-compete agreement.

roadwarrior said,
Wait, how did Microsoft discover these documents on his personal computer after he had already left the company? That in itself sounds suspicious to me.

that's what suspicious to you? not that the files were actually there on his personal computer?

ctrl_alt_delete said,

that's what suspicious to you? not that the files were actually there on his personal computer?

Yes, it was suspicious until I found out that he had been required to turn over the computer to them when he was sued. However, how do we know that they weren't planted in order for them to build a stronger case against him?

roadwarrior said,

However, how do we know that they weren't planted in order for them to build a stronger case against him?

I get the impression he never denied taking files with him, he just claimed they were all personal files.

roadwarrior said,

Yes, it was suspicious until I found out that he had been required to turn over the computer to them when he was sued. However, how do we know that they weren't planted in order for them to build a stronger case against him?

Well, that would be easily spotted by any computer forensics during the course of the lawsuit.

I wonder how this is going to turn out. but just thinking about it, what are those 600MB worth of documents doing on his personal computer? they shouldn't be on such a computer at all. I guess he thought he could have gotten away with it

ctrl_alt_delete said,
what are those 600MB worth of documents doing on his personal computer? they shouldn't be on such a computer at all. I guess he thought he could have gotten away with it

Well OBVIOUSLY if he had access to them, he was working with the information. Where else would a mobile employee keep the documents he was working with?