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Former Korn Ferry exec asks court to toss his prison sentence in database access conviction

January 19, 2018

Former Korn Ferry executive David Nosal asked the US District Court in San Francisco to throw out a one-year prison sentence. Nosal was convicted by a jury in 2013 for violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act because his colleagues accessed information on a Korn Ferry database in 2005. This was in conjunction with starting Nosal's new executive search firm. The login credentials used were those of Nosal’s former executive assistant, who remained at Korn Ferry, according to court records. Nosal has been out of prison on bail as his case made its way through the court system.

A spokesperson on Thursday announced the move by Nosal’s attorney to file a “writ of error coram nobis” in the US District Court for Northern California.

Nosal’s team cites a case filed in March 2017 claiming two Spencer Stuart executives took confidential information with them when they moved to Korn Ferry. That case was ultimately settled by Korn Ferry and Spencer Stuart and did not involve criminal charges, they said.

“In one case, allegedly bringing information from an old job to a new one is rewarded with success and luxury, while in another case, Mr. Nosal’s action is condemned to prison,” attorney Steven Gruel wrote on behalf of Nosal.

Nosal’s team also argued Korn Ferry originally brought the case to “cast a black cloud” over his new executive search firm.

Nosal’s case is long-running, and Nosal’s team noted that at one point “a divided panel of 9th Circuit judges rejected Mr. Nosal’s arguments for overturning the convictions. However, the court did remand the case for reconsideration of some issues, including his prison sentence.”

Last October, however, the US Supreme Court declined to take up the case.

The legal battle had also gained notice amid fears the conviction under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act could turn people who simply share passwords into criminals. It was a point brought up in the dissenting opinion at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. “Whatever other liability, criminal or civil, Nosal may have incurred in his improper attempt to compete with his form employer, he has not violated the CFAA,” according to the dissenting opinion.

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