Saturday 21 April 2018

Former IBM woman gets reprieve in court

Tim Healy

A FORMER IBM employee - faced with jail over not paying a €1,000 fine for failing to hand over confidential information of the company - has secured a reprieve from the High Court.

Beate Schmid, who previously alleged she discovered severe discrepancies in IBM's sales records and has been dismissed pending appeal, was prepared to go to jail because she "quite simply" cannot pay the €1,000 fine imposed on her by the court last month, her counsel Rory Traynor told Mr Justice George Birmingham.

New solicitors were coming on record for Ms Schmid, of Carnakelly, Kilmainhamwood, Co Meath, and wanted an adjournment to address IBM's claims she was refusing to hand over a USB memory stick containing confidential information of the company, counsel said.

Mark Connaughton SC, for IBM, said the case had attracted some publicity, a group called Transparency Ireland had involved themselves and IBM had received correspondence suggesting she was a "whistleblower".

IBM's primary concern was to close down the matter with a guarantee information about its customers and other employees would not be disseminated, he said.

What Ms Schmid wants to say about her own situation was up to her, he said.

While IBM had received no material from her since June 25, when the matter was last before the court, it was reassured there appeared to have been no dissemination of such information since.

Provided orders and undertakings restraining dissemination of confidential information and requiring its return remain in place, IBM considered it was for the court to decide how to deal with the matter now, counsel said

The judge said, taking all issues into account, he would adjourn the case to October without activating that part of his June 25 order providing for the jailing of Ms Schmid for seven days if the €1,000 fine was not paid within a month, as it had not been.

On June 25 last, the judge said an IBM expert had found she had copied the material and an independent expert had agreed.

Earlier today, he said he had no interest in jailing Ms Schmid or anyone else for non-payment of a fine unless it was a case of "won't pay rather than can't pay".

If she could provide evidence of inability to pay, he would be happy to look at that but if she paid any part of the sum before October, that would indicate her genuineness.

It was to Ms Schmid's credit, since the last hearing, both sides agreed there had been no dissemination of the information as, if there were, that would bring the matter into "a new category of seriousness".

Given those circumstances and because new lawyers were coming on record and the case would come fully before the court in October, it was inappropriate to activate the seven day prison term, he said.

Ms Schmid, in dispute with her employers IBM Ireland Product Distribution Ltd over her salary, has insisted she does not have the information which the company alleged was copied by her from a USB memory stick. She says she has handed over everything the company wants but it disputes that.

She was suspended on April 15 for breaching company security policy but has since been dismissed, Mr Connaughton said today.

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