SK Innovation accused of 'extraordinary evidence destruction' in EV battery trade secrets case with LG Chem

by John Shepherd
Fears for future of SK Battery America project in Georgia (above) if ITC trade ruling takes effect. Image: SK Innovation
SK Innovation (SKI) has been accused of an "extraordinary” destruction of evidence in a trade secrets case brought by battery-manufacturing competitor LG Chem, in newly-released comments by the US International Trade Commission (ITC).

The ITC issued a limited 10-year exclusion order on some SKI imports last month, after siding with LG Chem in a case brought to the agency alleging the misappropriation of trade secrets related to electric vehicle battery technology.

The import ban is set to take effect next month unless overturned by President Joe Biden, who has pledged to champion batteries and clean energy tech to achieve climate change goals.

SKI has denied any wrongdoing and said the destruction referred to was "routine” and in line with unspecified "compliance requirements”. After the ITC case was filed, SKI said it took "appropriate steps to preserve documents”.

Supply chain concerns

However, the ITC’s written opinion of the case pulls no punches in its criticism. The agency said: "The record of the investigation demonstrates not merely SKI’s eagerness to destroy documents, but also SKI’s callous disregard to ascertain the scope of the destruction after the commencement of (ITC) proceedings.”

Ford and Volkswagen are among companies that have told the ITC of their concern about the impact of its ruling on their supply chains. The agency also received representations from state and federal lawmakers, some expressing concern about future investment in Georgia, where SKI subsidiary SK Battery America is building a battery production facility.

However, the ITC said its ruling would still allow SKI to import components needed by Ford for four years and for VW for two years. The ruling would also allow the Georgia factory to produce batteries while car manufacturers looked for a new supplier.

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