Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is pressing charges against one of its former employees for allegedly leaking trade secrets to a French blogger who posted pre-release screenshots of new versions of Windows, Reuters reports.
According to an internal Microsoft investigation, Alex Kibkalo, who worked for Microsoft in Lebanon and Russia over a seven-year time span, uploaded pre-release Windows 8 software updates and other proprietary software to his Windows Live SkyDrive account in July and August 2012, and then contacted the blogger with his Hotmail account. The blogger, who is so far unnamed in court documents, has acknowledged posting the information on his Twitter account and selling activation keys on eBay.
Former Microsoft employee has relocated to Russia
“We take protection of our intellectual property very seriously, including cooperating with law-enforcement agencies who are investigating potential criminal actions by our employees or others,” said a Microsoft spokesperson.
Microsoft has tried to give the impression that Kibkalo was a disaffected employee, saying that he received poor performance reviews in 2012 and threatened to quit if they weren’t changed, which places the argument around the time that he allegedly leaked Microsoft trade secrets. Kibkalo seems to have relocated to Russia (he is a Russian national) where he works for a US-based tech company.
Poor performance review may be an artifact of stack ranking
If Kibkalo is convicted of leaking trade secrets, it may also be another strike against former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s controversial stack ranking system, which was ended late last year as Ballmer was on his way out. Under that system, performance reviews were subject to quotas so that a certain percentage of every division had to be given a poor review even if the group was doing great work (and a percentage had to be given high marks even if the division was abjectly failing).
The goal was to force employees to compete directly with each other and drive performance, but many people credit the system with incentivizing in-fighting and giving the company’s best employees reason not to work together since they were basically being graded on a curve.
You might normally assume that Kibkalo’s poor performance review meant that he was a lousy employee, but under the stack ranking system he may have done great work on a successful project and gotten a bad review because other people were slightly better, with the all the implications for future bonuses and raises that go with it. It’s easy to imagine someone in that position feeling slighted, lashing out, and taking a parting shot before moving on to another company.