Exiting members of HTC’s design team arrested for fraud, stealing trade secrets
HTC just can’t seem to catch a break. A handful of HTC’s design team resigned form their jobs this week after claiming their mid-year bonuses. The group of designers is in the process of setting up their own mobile design firm in China under the name “Xiaoyu.” Those leaving the company include Vice President of Product Design Thomas Chien, R&D director Wu Chien Hung and Senior Manager of Design Justin Huang (the talent behind the iconic design of the HTC One).
Losing a talented design team on its own is a huge blow to HTC, but circumstances regarding their departure raise a few red flags. In the complaint filed by HTC’s chairwoman Cher Wang, the designers are accused of fraudulent commission fees and stealing of company trade secrets. The report alleges that HTC was fraudulently billed US$334,000 worth of commission fees by an external design firm between May and July even though the phone was designed in-house. The report claims that the funds were later divided up and pocketed by Thomas Chien, Wu Chien Hung and Justin Huang. The stealing of trade secrets charge falls on Thomas Chien who is accused of downloading plans for HTC’s upcoing Sense 6 UI and sharing them via e-mail with an external party.
We’re not sure what the final outcome will be for those accused in this case, but HTC is definitely in a hard place. Replacing half a dozen of its top designers in Taipei will force the company to rely more heavily on its design team located in the US as it scrambles to find new talent.