SAN FRANCISCO – Following a change of plea hearing for each defendant, Racho Jordanov, the co-founder and former Chief Executive Officer of JHL Biotech, and Rose Lin, another of the company’s co-founders and former Chief Operating Officer, each were convicted of conspiracy to commit trade secret theft and wire fraud, announced Acting United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds, Internal Revenue Service ̶ Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Special Agent in Charge Michael Daniels, and Federal Bureau of Investigation, Special Agent in Charge Craig D. Fair. The defendants’ guilty pleas were accepted by the Hon. William Alsup, Senior U.S. District Judge, on August 24, 2021.
Both defendants submitted written plea agreements to the Court. According to the plea agreements, in 2012, Raco Ivanov Jordanov, also known as “Racho” Jordanov, 73, of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., and Rose Lin, also known as Rose Sweihorn Tong, 72, of South San Francisco, Calif., co-founded JHL Biotech, Inc., a biopharmaceutical startup in Taiwan. Between 2011 and 2019, Jordanov, as President and CEO of JHL Biotech, obtained and possessed confidential, proprietary, and trade secret information from Genentech, and used it to accelerate the timeline for and to reduce the costs of JHL Biotech’s development and production of Genentech biosimilars and to enhance JHL Biotech’s ability to meet various regulatory requirements related to the same. By various means, Jordanov obtained for JHL Biotech’s use many confidential and proprietary documents from Genentech without authorization, some of which contained trade secret information. In so doing, he worked with multiple people within JHL Biotech to possess and use confidential, proprietary, and trade secret information he knew JHL Biotech was not authorized to have.
According to the plea agreement, Jordanov hired former Genentech employees to work at JHL Biotech, several of whom he learned surreptitiously brought, without authorization, confidential and proprietary documents with them from Genentech to JHL Biotech. The company used only some of the stolen documents, but Jordanov tolerated this practice by the employees of JHL Biotech and made no effort to discourage its employees from using the documents or information they brought with them. The employees Jordanov hired provided the Genentech documents and information to JHL Biotech, which, at times, allowed the company to cheat, cut corners, solve problems, provide examples, avoid further experimentation, eliminate costs, lend scientific assurance, and otherwise help JHL Biotech start-up, develop, and operate its business secretly using the intellectual property and scientific know-how taken from Genentech. Jordanov admitted that he suspected that some or all the stolen information was brought to JHL Biotech in violation of relevant Genentech non-disclosure agreements and employment contracts, but he made no effort to verify whether that was true.
In January 2014, Lin arranged for Xanthe Lam, a Principal Scientist working full-time at Genentech, to secretly work as the head of formulation for JHL Biotech. Lin encouraged JHL Biotech scientists to ask Xanthe Lam for assistance or information when they ran into problems. Throughout this time, Lin knew that Xanthe Lam continued to work for Genentech and was not authorized to work for JHL Biotech. Lin also knew that Xanthe Lam did not want Genentech to learn of her work for JHL Biotech. Lin agreed to pay Xanthe Lam’s consultancy fee through her husband, Allen Lam. To further conceal Xanthe Lam’s work for the company, JHL Biotech did not enter a direct contract with Xanthe Lam. Instead, it always paid her through Allen Lam. Lin agreed to conceal Xanthe Lam’s work for JHL Biotech because Lin knew Genentech would not permit Xanthe Lam to work for another biotech company. Lin also directed JHL Biotech employees to use Allen Lam’s JHL email address to email questions to Xanthe Lam. Lin also instructed JHL Biotech employees to refer to Xanthe Lam as “Allen” in these email communications.
In early 2014, Lin learned that JHL Biotech employees were using confidential and proprietary documents, taken without authorization from Genentech, to create a set of JHL Biotech standard operating procedure (“SOPs”). JHL Biotech needed SOPs to apply for the initial Good Manufacturing Practices or “GMP” certification of its manufacturing facility by the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration or “Taiwan FDA.” Lin was in charge of the process for ensuring that JHL Biotech met the deadlines set for the GMP certification process. In that role, Lin was copied on emails where JHL Biotech employees discussed using Genentech documents to create JHL Biotech’s SOPs. Ultimately, 90-100 SOPs were generated in this way. Lin knew the JHL Biotech employees did not have the right to use Genentech’s documents and that their actions constituted theft from Genentech.
Between 2014 and 2018, Jordanov sometimes personally used and instructed others to use confidential, proprietary, trade secret Genentech documents and information relating to Genentech’s complex technology transfer procedures and processes. He used Genentech’s confidential and tech transfer documents in the development, construction, and operation of new facilities for JHL Biotech including its manufacturing facility in Wuhan, China. Jordanov instructed the employees to whom he sent the documents not to share them with others inside the company. Later, in September of 2018, after the criminal investigation had begun, the JHL employee Jordanov tasked with using the Genentech tech transfer documents was instructed by Jordanov to delete the email from Jordanov and its attachment and Jordanov instructed the employee to tell others at JHL Biotech to do the same.
In early-December 2016, Jordanov and Lin met with representatives of Sanofi S.A., the multi-national French pharmaceutical company, for approximately one week, during which they reviewed the strategic partnership agreement to be entered into by Sanofi and JHL Biotech. During this week-long meeting, Jordanov and Lin reviewed each section of the prospective partnership agreements in detail. Some of the sections of the agreements involved JHL Biotech representing to Sanofi that it had developed and was conducting its biosimilar operations without infringing the intellectual property rights of other companies or using other companies’ proprietary information. Jordanov and Lin did not disclose their possession and use of stolen Genentech documents to Sanofi, and instead, Jordanov signed the partnership agreements on behalf of JHL Biotech. By concealing these facts, Jordanov and Lin made it appear, falsely, that JHL Biotech had developed its own, or had lawfully obtained, the intellectual property that the biotech company used when, in fact, JHL Biotech had relied upon intellectual property, including confidential, proprietary, and trade secret information that it stole or received without authorization to obtain regulatory approval for its clinical trials, and build out its manufacturing capability. Jordanov and Lin knew that if they had not concealed these facts, Sanofi would not have agreed to the corporate transaction and invest approximately $80 million in JHL Biotech securities pursuant to the subscription agreement and approximately $21 million pursuant to Biologics Products Options Agreement (BPOA) for a total investment by Sanofi in JHL Biotech of approximately $101 million.
On June 1, 2021, a federal grand jury indicted Jordanov and Lin, charging both defendants with the following charges: (1) conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets and wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; (2) wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343 and 2 (three counts each defendant); (3) international money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(2)(A) (nine counts against Jordanov and five counts against Lin); and (4) conspiracy to obstruct justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. In addition, the indictment charges Jordanov with two counts of theft of trade secrets, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § § 1832(a)(1)(2)(3) and 2; and charges Lin with one additional count of making false statements to a government agency, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2). Pursuant to the plea agreements, both defendants pleaded guilty to count one of the indictment, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets and wire fraud. If the defendants comply with the terms of the plea agreements, the remaining charges will be dismissed at sentencing.
The criminal case against each defendant was adjourned for sentencing before Judge Alsup, on December 7, 2021. For their convictions, Jordanov and Lin each face possible prison sentences controlled by the terms of their respective plea agreements. The court also may order additional assessments, forfeiture, and restitution; however, any sentence would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
On July 7, 2021, in a related case, United States v. Xanthe Lam and Allen Lam, Case No. 18-cr-0527 WHA, both Xanthe Lam and Allen Lam pleaded guilty to, among other offenses, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets by stealing confidential, proprietary, and trade secret information from Genentech and giving it to JHL Biotech.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sheila A.G. Armbrust, Adam A. Reeves, and Claudia A. Quiroz are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Beth Margen and Morgan Byrne. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service ̶ Criminal Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.