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Simon Lancaster, a former Apple materials manager who sued the technology giant for allegedly leaking unpublished information about products in the media, is under criminal investigation for stealing business secrets.
Lancaster’s attorney on Thursday filed a motion to suspend Apple’s civil lawsuit in light of a criminal investigation launched by the Santa Clara County District Attorney. Because the two actions are similar in nature and “stem from the same core of facts,” the disclosure of evidence in the Apple case could imply the rights of Lancaster’s Fifth Amendment relating to an ongoing criminal investigation.
The state case was apparently initiated before Apple’s lawsuit, although Lancaster did not know about its existence until recently.
“Allowing both actions to continue would put Mr. Lancaster in an unsustainable position of having to choose between exercising his constitutional right against self-incrimination and defending himself in a civil lawsuit,” the motion argues.
Lancaster’s team is in the process of delivering information to meet the initial discovery and is working on a potential settlement in Apple’s action. As such, the state has been given access to information that “goes beyond” what it would normally see in normal circumstances, and that approach would be extended if the civil lawsuit continues, the proposal says.
“In the absence of retention, Lancaster will face the heavy burden of choosing between defending in a civil lawsuit and waiving the privileges of the Fifth Amendment,” the proposal reads. “Given the almost complete overlap between the allegations in the complaint and the subject matter of the criminal investigation, the interests of justice call for the suspension of this proceeding.”
In March, Apple filed a lawsuit against Lancaster for allegedly abusing its senior position in the company to gather sensitive data on upcoming products that were later sold to an unnamed medium. He also had an employment relationship with a journalist who published stories based on stolen information, according to Apple’s complaint.
Lancaster left Apple in 2019, but not before acquiring a bunch of marked “confidential” documents, including some relating to the so-called “Project X”. Details of the secret initiative, thought to be AR / VR hardware, have been made public.
In addition to compensation, Apple claims that the former employee mediated in an agreement to positively cover his launch, Arris, in exchange for access to trade secrets. He also leaked documents that could help him get started, Apple claims.
9to5Mac reported a proposal to stay on Friday.
Lancaster remains innocent and in a legal response to Apple’s lawsuit claims his actions are misinterpreted. For example, he admits that he asked for a positive story about Arris, but says no confidential information has been exchanged for that privilege. He further claims that he contacted a reporter who wrote about the information leak in order to discuss problems in the workplace, and not in order to leak product details.
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