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Chancery Adopts Narrow Interpretation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

Posted In Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

AlixPartners LLP v. Benichou, C.A. No. 2018-0600-KSJM (Del. Ch. May 10, 2019).

The federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) carries both civil and criminal penalties for unauthorized access to protected computers.  The Court of Chancery recently decided an issue of first impression in Delaware regarding the CFAA’s scope in connection with a suit by AlixPartners against a former partner for allegedly misusing the company’s confidential information and trade secrets. 

Plaintiffs were two entities making up AlixPartners, a global restructuring firm, and the defendant was managing partner of the Paris office before joining a competitor.  Defendant allegedly downloaded confidential client information onto his personal data device, both before and after his discharge, and later provided it to his new employer.  Litigation ensued and the defendant sought dismissal of the plaintiffs’ claim under the CFAA.  Dismissal of that claim turned on whether the defendant was potentially liable under the CFAA for: (i) misusing information obtained from a computer he was authorized to access (the “Broad Approach”); or (ii) unauthorized access to the plaintiffs’ computers (the “Narrow Approach”). More ›