A sportswear company in Oregon has alleged that a senior IT manager left a backdoor in its systems before departing to a business partner and illegally used that access almost 700 times for his new employer's benefit.
In its complaint to a federal court in Oregon [PDF], Columbia Sportswear demanded a jury trial for Michael Leeper, who it alleged had illegally accessed highly confidential information to the benefit of a business parter, tech consulting firm Denali Advanced Integration, which Leeper had left to work for.
The accusation of betrayal notes that Leeper had been an employee at Columbia since May 2000, when he joined as manager of its desktop services team. He was subsequently promoted to senior director of technology infrastructure, from which he was responsible for maintaining Columbia's global IT systems and dealing with technology vendors including Denali, for which he departed the sportswear business in 2014.
Just a day before leaving, however, Leeper allegedly created a network account under the name "Jeff Manning", called "jmanning", which provided him with remote access to Columbia's network, including its VPN. Using this account, Leeper plundered Columbia nearly 700 times over the next two years, stealing corporate plans as well as information on its technology budget, all for the benefit of Denali as it competed for his former employer's cash.
Columbia complained that Leeper and Denali had accessed information including emails concerning business transactions in which it had financial interests, stating: "Leeper illegally accessed that information in furtherance of Denali's desire to profit from its business relationship with Columbia, and in his capacity as Denali's CTO."
The case is ongoing. ®
Updated at 10.17, 8 March, 2017, to add: Denali Advanced Integration provided this statement: "Denali and its Chief Technology Officer, Michael Leeper, have been named in a lawsuit initiated by Columbia Sportswear. Denali is working diligently to understand the complaint and will cooperate fully with any investigation.
“These claims astonish us, and they in no way reflect Denali or its values,” said CEO Majdi Daher.
“Effective immediately, Mike Leeper has been placed on leave from Denali so that he can focus his energies on defending the claims against him. While on leave, Mike will have no responsibilities with Denali and will not have access to Denali customers, vendors, employees or other data."