FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) — A former Walmart employee has pleaded guilty to stealing the company’s data and supplying it to his next employer, which was a vendor for the retail giant.
John Stan Harmon pleaded guilty Friday (June 1) in U.S. District Court to one count of theft of trade secrets.
Harmon worked as a buyer in the furniture department for the Bentonville-based retailer, which gave him access to “highly sensitive” information on profit margins, production, and pricing for items bought and sold by Walmart and its subsidiaries, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Before leaving Walmart in October 2016, Harmon obtained pricing and production information on thousands of the retailer’s outdoor products.
Harmon then sent the information to his private email and later forwarded it to certain executives at Outdoor Leisure Products, where he subsequently went to work, according to federal court documents.
Outdoor Leisure Products is based in Neosho, Mo., and makes grills, smokers and related accessories. The company didn’t immediately respond to messages left Friday.
Walmart said it didn’t suffer “any identifiable financial loss” through the theft, but said the information Harmon stole is “highly valuable to both vendors and competitors,” according to court documents.
Harmon later told federal investigators he knew the information he shared was proprietary data.
Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said the company takes seriously the protection of its trade secrets and business information.
“We will take action if they are misappropriated,” Harmon said. “Once we learned that Mr. Harmon improperly transferred sensitive information outside the company, we reported it to federal law enforcement.”
Hargrove didn’t know whether Outdoor Leisure Products was still a vendor for Walmart, but one of the company’s products was for sale Friday on Walmart’s website via Overstock.com.
Hargrove stressed that Harmon’s actions were his alone and not reflective of Outdoor Leisure Products.
Harmon is free on a $5,000 bond. A sentencing hearing hasn’t been set.
Stealing trade secrets is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.