In Lasco Foods, Inc. v. Hall and Shaw Sales, Marketing & Consulting, LLC, 600 F. Supp. 2d 1045 (E.D. Mo. 2009), the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri dismissed an employer’s claim that two former employees violated the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act (“CFAA”), 18 U.S.C. § 1030, et seq., by deleting information from and refusing to return their company laptops after resigning. Lasco brought claims against former sales representatives Ronald Hall and Charles Shaw, as well as their new company, Hall and Shaw Sales, Marketing & Consulting. Included in the action were claims under the CFAA and the Stored Wire and Electronic Communications Act (“SECA”), 18 U.S.C. § 2701, et seq., as well as a number of claims under Missouri law. 

Lasco alleged that Shaw “deleted confidential and trade secret information from Lasco’s computer” and “unlawfully copied or otherwise downloaded Lasco’s Trade Secret Information for his own personal use and for the use of HSSMC.” Lasco further alleged that Hall refused to return his Lasco laptop and that Lasco anticipated that a forensic examination of Hall’s laptop would reveal that he also deleted information from the laptop.

Hall and Shaw moved to dismiss the SECA and CFAA claims. The District Court found that federal courts have found that the general purpose of these two statutes “was to create a cause of action against computer hackers (e.g., electronic trespassers),” rather than rogue employees. Accordingly, because Lasco alleged that Hall and Shaw had unrestricted access to Lasco’s information on its computers, the District Court dismissed the claims under the CFAA and SECA because Lasco had not alleged that Hall and Shaw accessed Lasco’s information without authorization.

The District Court did find that Lasco had alleged sufficiently that it had suffered damage and loss by virtue of Hall and Shaw deleting information and forcing Lasco to take remedial measures. The District Court also found that Lasco had alleged interruption of service by asserting that Hall and Shaw had delayed before returning their computers. However, because Lasco could not show that Hall and Shaw were unauthorized users, its claim under the CFAA was dismissed, leaving Lasco to pursue state law claims.