A programmer at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange has been arrested by the FBI at his office and charged with stealing proprietary source code.
Chunlai Yang, 49, is accused of planning to steal proprietary software from the CME - one of the world's largest futures exchanges - to sell to a Chinese start up that he ran. Details from emails he sent have already been made public in court.
Yang faces up to 10 years in prison, and a $250,000 (£156,000) fine if found guilty of the offence. He is being held in police custody after a detention hearing in a Chicago court yesterday. He had booked a ticket on a flight bound for China today. Yang has not made a public comment regarding the charges.
A naturalised American born in China, Yang joined CME eleven years ago. The exchange began to monitor his computer activity after he allegedly began transferring thousands of files, some onto USB memory sticks.
Yang was emailing three individuals in China, sometimes with valuable source code, according to prosecutors. One of his contacts worked for the Zhangiagang Free Trade Zone. Two worked with Yang to run the East China Technology Innovation Park Company, a firm that allegedly planned to establish a futures exchange in China that would sell trading software.
After yesterday's court hearing, the FBI said in a statement: "Many of the downloaded files were critical to the operation of the CME Group and are considered proprietary in nature and contain protected source code.
"If the source code were to be released to competitors, clients or anyone else in the financial industry, it could cause great economic damage."
CME Group insisted that it had "found no evidence that customer information, trading data or required regulatory information was compromised". The case continues.