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Duty to Preserve Confidential Information

15 January, 2016 - 09:35

To further his objectives, a principal will usually need to reveal a number of secrets to his agent—how much he is willing to sell or pay for property, marketing strategies, and the like. Such information could easily be turned to the disadvantage of the principal if the agent were to compete with the principal or were to sell the information to those who do. The law therefore prohibits an agent from using for his own purposes or in ways that would injure the interests of the principal, information confidentially given or acquired. This prohibition extends to information gleaned from the principal though unrelated to the agent’s assignment: “[A]n agent who is told by the principal of his plans, or who secretly examines books or memoranda of the employer, is not privileged to use such information at his principal’s expense.” 1Nor may the agent use confidential information after resigning his agency. Though he is free, in the absence of contract, to compete with his former principal, he may not use information learned in the course of his agency, such as trade secrets and customer lists. Breach of Fiduciary Duty , Bacon v. Volvo Service Center, Inc., deals with an agent’s breach of the duty of confidentiality.