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Leak Proof?

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The leaked US diplomatic cables emanating from the WikiLeaks organisation highlight the damage such breaches of confidence can do to a government's credibility and goodwill; as well as give pause for thought closer to home for members of the business community.

Business leaders here may be thinking of turning the spotlight on their own territory – where the old wartime saying ’loose lips sink ships’ will perhaps have a new resonance.

Employees in general – and sometimes outside contractors as well – can have access to a company’s confidential and often commercially sensitive information. It wouldn’t be unusual for financial reports, business practices, customer lists, new innovations or even trade secrets to be viewed by employees or others associated with the business.

Commercial espionage may sound more John le CarrĂ© than office routine – but its more common than you may think, coupled with the added set of complications that could potentially occur if the employee who leaked the information claims to have protection under the ‘whistleblowing’ laws.

Thomas Lillie, solicitor in the Litigation & Dispute Resolution team at Keeble Hawson LLP looks at some key ways to help limit the risk:

“There is action you can take if a leak has occurred – but prevention is better than a cure. So ensure employment and consultant contracts and policies are carefully considered and drafted. Do they contain provisions regarding confidentiality? Are suitable restrictive covenants in place? Are those covenants enforceable? Do those provisions provide enough protection?”

“If an employee is going to come into contact with sensitive information their contract can be tailored to cover this.”

“If you suspect a leak, speed is of the essence, as is discretion and thoroughness. There are specialist lawyers and investigators who can support the process so as not to taint any evidence recovered which may adversely affect any court proceedings.”

Last but not least Thomas concludes:

“Businesses are not powerless; the law empowers businesses to protect their interests and, where situations arise, to limit the damage and take decisive action against the perpetrators.”

Thomas can be contacted at

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