In many industries, the client list is one of the most valuable pieces of information to have and protect. If someone were to steal that list, it could result in an abundance of negative repercussions for the company.
Many instances of this theft qualify as intellectual property theft or the theft of trade secrets. Say, for instance, you hire an employee who in order to fulfill their position needs access to the company database (this includes your client list). The employee chooses to work with you for three years, then leaves to start their own business. This is often where individuals will utilize a stolen contact list to acquire clients. With this information, an individual can start their new company by poaching your clients and undercutting your prices; they know what the company charges and what people actually get for it.
The best way around this is to make new employees sign confidentiality agreements and/or non-compete agreements when they start. Employees can learn the business by working with you, but they cannot take that insider information and start a new company.
Whether or not you have had your employees sign these documents, stealing a client list from privileged files is still a form of intellectual property theft, nonetheless. Please be aware of exactly what options you have to protect your company and help put an end to this unethical and illegal behavior.