The $17.5 million hard drive

The $17.5 million hard drive

Summary: Some employers think they own you when all they're doing is renting your time. It cost 1 company $17.


Some employers think they own you when all they're doing is renting your time. It cost 1 company $17.5 million to learn that stealing an employee's hard drive is really, really stupid.

It's about time.

Wha' happened? An RV sales manager was hired by an RV manufacturer Forest River, told he was going to get a big raise "later," and when he realized "later" meant "never" started looking for a new job.

The cheapskate company didn't even provide a notebook, so the guy used his own to build an 11 state sales network, as well as software for tracking sales. When the company Prez got wind that the guy was looking - and before firing him - the Prez stole his notebook, took the hard drive and erased all the files.

The Prez thought the sales manager was going to steal company secrets and figured that was all the justification he needed. He figured wrong.

In the meantime the RV builder got bought by the v deep-pocketed Berkshire Hathaway holding company for legendary investor Warren Buffet.

Wha' happened then? The sales manager was a believable witness - despite popular prejudice, most good salesmen are believable - and the jury awarded him his lost sales commissions, $7 million in punitive damages against the RV company and $8 million in punitive damages against the RV company president and founder.


The Storage Bits take Most companies aren't as stupid and cheap as Forest River was. They'll buy the notebook you use and have you sign a non-disclosure agreement.

When you use a company computer you have NO privacy and NO right to the personal data you store on it. Whether you think your job is secure or not, back up your personal data including pictures, contacts and emails.

Comments welcome, of course. Learn more about this case and employee rights generally at Ellen Simon's Employee Rights Post blog.

Topics: IT Employment, Hardware, Legal, Privacy, Storage

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  • Here's hoping positive reinforcement works

    Thanks for the interesting read.

    Here is a thumbs up to give you some positive reinforcement. Hopefully it will help keep you on topic in the future! Keep up the good work.

    The Internet :)
    • The thief (prez) should have been arrested, too.

      Any normal person who stole somebody's laptop would be sitting behind bars. A rich company president gets a "fine." Welcome to America. *sigh*
      • Prez behind bars?

        You've got to be kidding! With prison budgets and full jails he might get finger printed and fined but that would be all. I had a guy steal my car, 1965 Mustang, and the judge gave him the harshest sentence he could - 10 days and restitution of which I think I got 1 check and that was from the bail money he had posted. Theft of a laptop? They aren't going to do anything, unless, as here, you sue the dummy.
      • Are you kidding

        If this yahoo (no offense to Yahoo) was an executive of the company, and I bet he was (prez ... go figure) then he would spend the company into the ground and probably buy some justice. That is justice taylored just for him. I can't believe this is over ... this guy will never get paid!
      • Sounds like this was a civil suit not a criminal case

        I'm not an expert, (but I watch Law and Order on TV ;) ) but a stolen laptop is about a $1000 to $2000 larceny and not going to result in a big jail sentence.

        It sounds like the salesman got his justice by bringing a civil suit and suing for damages.
  • RE: The $17.5 million hard drive

    I think that 7 million plus 8 million are 15 million not 17.5 million
    • I think that 7 million plus 8 million are 15 million not 17.5 million

      That must mean his commision was 1.5 millon.....
      • You need a new calculator

        Uh a commission of 1.5 million added to 15 million would be.....<wait for it> ...16.5 million!! And I did that in my head. Buddy, you and the author need a new calculator (or a new spreadsheet). I learned math the old way......can you even add 3 and 19 without the help of a mechanical or electrical device? (Hint, the sum is more than your fingers and toes, unless you are a mutant.)
        • Bits!

          If you use your fingers as binary digits (strange, they are binary digits :-P), you can count much higher than ten. With 10 bits for your hands and 10 bits for your toes, you could count up to 1023 on your hands or 1,048,575 on both hands and toes. That should do for most math. I'm sure you could extend that using eye state (open/closed), mouth state, sitting/standing state, arm/leg position (multiple states, oh my!), and other creative bit-holders. Good luck keeping track of that in your head, though.

          Subtract or add bits as required if you have too many or not enough digits, mutants! My niece has only four toes on each foot, so she wouldn't be able to count as high as most people. It doesn't seem to affect her smartness though.
          • Re: Bits!

            My toes on each foot move up and down together, so each foot is only
            one digit :-( This is going to take a lot of practice. A woodie is an extra
            bit though.
          • Smart...

            You're pretty smart, and i used to have to take my pants off to count to 21.
          • LOL - nt

            US Is ! Europe-ThankGod!
          • New Math

            a funny song from the 60's by Tom Lehrer:

        • Most windows users are mutants...

          They explode at the sound or sight of the word linux. See, a few windows users who just read this just exploded into green goo. Hey, I can get rid of windows users! Linux! Linux! Linux! Linux! Linux! Linux! Linux! Linux Linux! Linux! Linux! Linux! Linux! Linux! Linux! Linux! Linux! Linux! Linux! Linux! Linux! Linux! Linux! Linux! Linux! Linux! Alright that should kill those in the Phoenix area, since many of us down here are Linux or mac-ers anyway. Oop, there goes the last one.
          • Terrorist Suspect

            If there are hundreds of millions of Windows users out there; and most of them explode at the sight of the word L*I*N*U*X, then the use of that word to cause them to expode would be considered employment of a weapon of mass destruction.

            So when is bendib getting renditioned to a 3rd world country for enhanced interrogation; and when will we be able to view the videos of it on YouTube?
          • LMAO

            That is funny right there... Sorry, just had to say so and glad you didn't exaggerate the facts any...
          • How?

            Tell me how this became a Linux/Windows debate(rant)? I think you may have posted on the wrong thread.
          • LOL - he is supporting the stereotype...nt

            US Is ! Europe-ThankGod!
          • *nix/mac Trolls

            SHHHH Troll hunting

            BOOM got them all, gotta love Thermal Nuclear Weapons!!!

            Yes I am a PC and I use Win 7

            This bit of comedy didn't harm any actual *nix, mac users and if you took offince to this TOUGH T**** it was a joke!

            IMHO Gaxxis

            PS spell checker on the fritz
          • WOW - you forgot your medication again...nt

            US Is ! Europe-ThankGod!