On the afternoon of August 8, 2017, Shannon Wu would enter the Coca Cola headquarters in Atlanta for the last time.
Coca Cola has struggled to maintain its lead in the global soft drink market as its once loyal customers shift to other brands, advertised with images of aquifers or herbal remedies or tough masochistic sports that had nothing to do with carbonated entertainment and mass culture.
The new CEO’s plan included restructuring, writes Bloomberg. 1,200 employees would be laid off, and Yu, a chemist in her 50s, had been told weeks earlier that she would be among them.
Whenever a company fires someone, there’s always a chance they’re trying to take something with them. Coca Cola, the company with the world’s most famous trade secret, its soft drink recipe, was fully aware of this risk.
That’s why it has implemented a logging system similar to that of the Secret Service and uses software that monitors employees’ data usage.
That summer, as more employees learned they were leaving, the system kept crashing. Many of these … raids involved attempts by employees to obtain their personal records, which they had stored on their computers, such as their tax returns, their children’s school audits, their bank loan information. But not everyone had good intentions…
Shannon Yu had access to some of the company’s most secret information, in particular the chemical composition of the protective coating of the containers in which Coca Cola is sold. That is, in the company’s “second trade secret”, as the US state judge before whom he was called later described it, in order to categorically deny everything, but without convincing anyone .
Shannon You walked out of Coca-Cola headquarters with $120 million worth of trade secrets in her pocket.
His efforts to bring technology to China shed new light on industrial espionage in Asia’s biggest economy. @jordanr1000 & @atbwebb get the story https://t.co/87Qp14oxQv pic.twitter.com/b3kTGiFf7N
—Bloomberg (@business) May 11, 2023
These packages are expensive and more importantly than the soft drink recipe itself, which has been kept secret for all these years, because without the specific protective layer, Coca Cola could lose its taste and texture. characteristics, i.e. corrode inside the box in which it is sold. This chemical composition, however, does not belong to the famous company, but to the multinational protective layer companies that cooperate with it.
The Revenge Project
Yu, angry at her impending dismissal and determined to get revenge as well as earn a lot of money, tried every means possible to unlock the secrets of chemical synthesis, using all sorts of key numbers, computer programs and special software.
After repeated failures and frustrations, she enlisted her cell phone to take a photo of a series of files from her computer and managed to “download” various encrypted files and save them to her personal Google account.
It was her penultimate day in Atlanta, and on August 17 she would travel to the Chinese city of Weihai. Once there, she met entrepreneurs who agreed to help her develop her own protective packaging diaper business.
A month later, he returned to Beijing, where he intended to apply for the national guarantee and loan program, “Thousands of Talents”. Her goal is to break the “international monopoly” of the global packaging industry held by Coca-Cola, with the “key” to the files she had taken from her home computer at Coca Cola.
But instead of revolutionizing business, three years later she found herself in litigation after the companies involved filed a series of lawsuits against her for theft and assignment of trade secrets and commercial espionage.
The truth is that several counterintelligence officials from many Western countries had repeatedly warned against China’s “Thousand Talents” program, which they claimed was aimed at attracting Chinese scientists and engineers who were in foreign countries. foreigners to return to China and open businesses there, lured by generous subsidies, significant tax breaks and more.
But to get the above, they had to steal trade secrets from foreign companies.
Coca Cola’s secret remains well-kept to this day.