Federal panel scolds Korean battery maker

September 30, 2020 Commerce - Photo shows SK Innovation's $2.6 billion construction site in Commerce on Wednesday, September 30, 2020. The 2.4 million-square-foot plant, located next to Interstate 85 in Jackson County, could eventually employ up to 2,600 workers. A trade-secrets dispute has imperiled the opening of the plant. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
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September 30, 2020 Commerce - Photo shows SK Innovation's $2.6 billion construction site in Commerce on Wednesday, September 30, 2020. The 2.4 million-square-foot plant, located next to Interstate 85 in Jackson County, could eventually employ up to 2,600 workers. A trade-secrets dispute has imperiled the opening of the plant. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

A federal panel scolded the officials of a company that’s building a vehicle battery factory near Commerce, calling their actions “extraordinary” when they destroyed evidence to keep investigators from discovering the company had stolen trade secrets.

The U.S. International Trade Commission, which ruled last month that SK Innovation stole trade secrets from a rival, released the written opinion on Thursday. The commission decided that the company can make batteries in Georgia for only a limited time before it’s banned from using components needed for battery construction for 10 years. Gov. Brian Kemp and other state officials are lobbying President Biden to overturn that decision.

Kemp has said the ruling threatens thousands of potential new jobs and a multibillion-dollar investment in the factory near Commerce. The SK plant is one of the largest economic development projects in state history.

The 95-page opinion underlines the dire circumstances that SK finds itself in.

SK’s” destruction of evidence in this case [was] extraordinary,” the opinion said. “The destruction was ordered at a high level and was carried out by department heads throughout SK.”

LG Energy Solution, the rival that accused SK of stealing its trade secrets, said in a Thursday statement that the ITC’s ruling will allow it to “meet the needs of the country’s electric vehicle ecosystem” by protecting its trade secrets and allowing it to make investments in its own battery operations.

SK could not be immediately reached for comment.

Both SK and LG met with the Biden administration last week.