Home Trade secrets used to win bid for Dominion Peaker plant; three executives plead guilty
Public Safety, Virginia

Trade secrets used to win bid for Dominion Peaker plant; three executives plead guilty

Crystal Graham
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A former executive for an unnamed global industrial manufacturing conglomerate pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to convert trade secrets.

John Gibson, 58, of Winter Park, Fla., was the head of sales for North America and the executive vice president of power generation for the unnamed company.

Gibson is scheduled to be sentenced on May 29, 2024. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Gibson’s co-conspirators were Theodore Fasca, 57, of Richmond, the former director of generation system planning at Dominion Energy, Inc., a Virginia-based utility company, and Michael Hillen, 56, of Midlothian, a former account manager at the unnamed company. Both Fasca and Hillen have also pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy and are scheduled to be sentenced on March 1, 2024, and April 11, 2024, respectively. Defendants face a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison.

The losses to victims were between $25 million and $65 million.

According to court documents, in 2019, Gibson conspired with others to misappropriate combustion turbine-related trade secrets of two competitor companies, General Electric Company and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., for the benefit of his company.

In March 2019, Dominion sought to build a peaker combustion turbine power plant in Chesterfield with a projected cost of $500 million. Peaker plants are specifically designed to add electricity generation capacity to alleviate high grid load and improve electric grid resiliency.

To build the plant, Dominion opened a competitive, closed bid process soliciting requests for proposals from qualified companies.

Three companies bid for the work: GE, MHI and the unnamed company. All companies signed non-disclosure agreements restricting the disclosure of confidential information provided to Dominion during the bid.

After GE, MHI and the unnamed companies submitted their closed bids to Dominion, Fasca and Hillen organized to repeatedly funnel GE and MHI confidential information, often using private email accounts.

Gibson received the GE and MHI trade secrets knowing such information to be illegally obtained. Gibson strategically disseminated it to other senior executives, to leaders within its business intelligence unit and to representatives of the parent company in Germany. Gibson’s dissemination of the GE and MHI trade secrets was calculated to provide the unnamed company with a competitive advantage in the bid for the Dominion Peaker Project, to the detriment of GE and MHI; improve business intelligence; and provide a competitive advantage in future bids against GE and MHI.

After learning of GE’s and MHI’s bids for the Dominion Peaker Project, Gibson authorized and obtained approvals within his company, including from the CEO for power generation, to resubmit a lower bid for the Dominion Peaker Project and undercut GE’s bid.

The unnamed company won the bid for the Peaker Project with Dominion.

According to news stories about the controversial bidding process, the unnamed company in court documents was Siemens. The documents allege Dominion employees accepted gifts including football game tickets, hotel accommodations and dinners in exchange for the confidential information.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.