Solvay employee accuses firm of sharing customer info with China

An employee of materials firm Solvay SA has filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming that it allowed Chinese firms to access the confidential information of U.S. customers.

Mark Ardito filed the suit June 1 in Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta, Maine. Ardito worked for Brussels-based Solvay and its U.S.-based Solvay Specialty Polymers unit since 2003 as a sales development manager. He was based at his home in Belgrade, Maine.

In the lawsuit, Ardito said that Solvay “chose to exploit his strong track record and ability to generate customer trust to divert trade secrets and confidential information from U.S. customers to customers in China.” The firm then retaliated against him when he tried to stop the information leaks, according to Ardito.

One of the Chinese companies identified by Ardito is Huawei Technologies Co., a major telecommunications firm. The U.S. government in 2019 banned U.S. firms from using equipment from Huawei and other Chinese firms that were labeled as national security risks.

Ardito took medical leave from Solvay in late 2018, briefly left the company, then returned to a lesser role. In the lawsuit, he said he first presented his findings to Solvay officials in 2018 and had presented them again as recently as February.

Ardito is seeking reinstatement to his previous position or payment of lost wages and benefits, as well as double the amount of back pay plus interest. He also is asking that the court have Solvay train its employees about civil rights.

The case is in the process of being transferred from a state court to U.S. District Court in Maine, according to a June 2 report in the Bangor Daily News.

Officials with Solvay could not be reached for comment. The firm is a global supplier of plastics and specialty chemicals. Solvay employs more than 24,000 worldwide and posted sales of $10.8 billion in 2020.

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