House and Senate Pass Foreign and Economic Espionage Penalty Enhancement Act of 2012 - Bill Awaits Obama's Approval

On January 1, 2013, the U.S. House of Representative passed a bill that increases the maximum penalty for individuals convicted of violating the Economic Espionage Act. The Senate had previously approved the bill on December 19, 2012, and it now goes to President Barack Obama for approval.

The Foreign and Economic Espionage Penalty Enhancement Act of 2012, H.R.6029, increases maximum fines for both organizations and individuals that steal domestic trade secrets in order to benefit a foreign entity. For Individuals, the maximum fine is increased from $500,000 to $5 millions. For organizations, the maximum fine is increased from $10 million to $10 million or "three times the value of the stolen trade secret to the organization, including expenses for research and design and other costs of reproducing the secret that the organization has thereby avoided."

In addition, the bill instructs the United State Sentencing Commission to "review and, if appropriate, amend the Federal sentencing guidelines and policy statements applicable to persons convicted" of stealing or attempting to steal trade secrets with the “inten[t] that the offense would benefit a foreign government, foreign instrumentality, or foreign agent . . . ." The Commission shall consult with a wide array of agencies, including (but not limited to) law enforcement, trade secret owners, the DOJ and the United States Department of Homeland Security. The Commission must complete its review within 180 days of the Act's enactment.