Hongjin Tan, a Chinese national, has been sent to prison for 24 months for stealing trade secrets from Phillips 66. The company has its head office in Houston, though Mr Tan worked in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
Mr Tan was initially arrested in December 2018 and pleaded guilty in November 2019.
Mr Tan joined Phillips in April 2017 as a research engineer in the battery development group. Prior to that, he had spent over 10 years working and studying in California.
On December 12, 2018, Mr Tan announced he was resigning and returning to China to be with his aging parents. The company conducted a systems access review and determined that Mr Tan had downloaded files onto a personal USB flash drive. The company then called in the FBI. The FBI found an offer letter (in Chinese) dated 17 October, 2018 on Mr Tan’s laptop from a company based in Xiamen, China. As well as the usual job offer details, the letter stated that Mr Tan would be compensated 400,000 RMB (approx $58,000) for information already provided. Mr Tan had visited China that September.
Phillips has advised the FBI that the company has earned $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion from the sale of the product in question.
Mr Tan was also ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution to Phillips.