BP is suing one of its former US oil trading analysts for allegedly stealing company secrets, in a case that shines a light on the importance of proprietary data to the world’s largest oil traders.
In a filing in the United States Northern District of Illinois, BP’s trading division alleges that Joseph Giljum, a crude oil analyst at its Chicago office until last month, uploaded “large volumes” of BP’s confidential data to his Amazon Cloud Drive account.
The filing contains emails and text messages that BP alleges show he was negotiating a new job with a rival, promising in one message that BP’s information and models would help them “crush the competition”, according to the suit.
The suit seeks their return and to bar Mr Giljum from taking another oil analyst job in the industry, as well as damages.
“BP is concerned that Giljum will improperly use this information to compete against BP unfairly, and that Giljum has plans to continue to do so when he begins employment with BP’s competitor,” the filing, dated April 28, says.
The competing company is not named in the filing but it says that Mr Giljum was negotiating with former BP trader James Chrystal, who now works in the US for Mercuria, the Swiss commodity house, which has expanded its North American operations in recent years.
Parties close to the matter say that BP and Mercuria, which is not a defendant in the case, have held talks about the issue.
The filing details alleged efforts by Mr Giljum to upload BP data and models related to oil trading and inventory levels to the Amazon cloud, before downloading them to his private computer.
BP hired Mr Giljum as a “crude bench analyst” in May 2010 at its Integrated Supply and Trading Division (IST), which deals with millions of barrels a day of crude and refined products for the company. Its muscular trading operation has helped bolster BP’s earnings during the oil slump.
“Proprietary information constitutes BP’s most important asset and is essential to BP’s competitive advantage,” BP said in the filing.
Mr Giljum started talks with Mr Chrystal about joining him at his new employer late last year, the filing said, before handing in his resignation to BP in April.
The BP analyst compiled more than 950 business files of intelligence and analytics on his desktop work computer that he placed in a folder labelled “JPG” — his initials and also a common file extension for photos.
The files were placed in subfolders labelled with the names of Mr Giljum’s family and dogs, which BP alleges “was a ruse designed to conceal the true nature” of what they contained.
He later contacted a forensic accountant enquiring about how to wipe computers and phone messages after transferring them via the Amazon cloud, the complaint alleges.
The filing includes exchanges between Mr Giljum and Mr Chrystal that suggest both men were nervous about the alleged plan.
In one correspondence, Mr Chrystal allegedly said: “just don’t text me that shit” “i [sic] don’t want to get sued” “thats [sic] toeing close to the line”.
Mr Giljum responded: “All good will just move to email from here on out.”
Mr Chrystal said he was “paranoid as it is” adding “on top of that, smoke a lot of weed, makes me even more paranoid,” according to the complaint.
A lawyer representing Mr Giljum declined to comment. Mr Chrystal did not respond to an email seeking comment.