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What Are the Consequences of a Broken NDA?

Did you know that over one-third of the U.S. workforce is bound by an NDA? It’s a startling statistic that highlights the importance of protecting sensitive information. In today’s digital age, where data is often shared quickly and easily, it’s crucial to take measures to safeguard your company’s confidential information. 

One common tool used to protect such information is a non-disclosure agreement or NDA. An NDA is a legally binding contract that requires the parties involved to keep specific information confidential. But what happens if you break a non-disclosure agreement? 

The consequences can be severe, and it’s essential to understand the risks involved. In this article, we’ll explore the possible consequences of a broken NDA and provide examples of high-profile cases. We’ll also offer tips for avoiding a breach and protecting your confidential information.

What happens if you break a non-disclosure agreement?

The NDA penalty for breaching a confidentiality clause can be severe. It may include legal and business consequences. Breach of contract lawsuits, injunctions, monetary damages, and criminal charges are some of the consequences that individuals or companies may face if they violate the terms of an NDA.

Legal Consequences

Breach of contract lawsuits can be time-consuming and costly. Injunctions may be ordered by the court to prevent further breaches of the NDA. 

Monetary damages can be awarded to the injured party, which can include lost profits and legal fees. In some cases, violating an NDA can result in criminal charges.

Business Consequences

Violating an NDA can have severe business consequences. Some of the possible consequences include:

  • Loss of business relationships
  • Damage to brand reputation
  • Loss of competitive advantage
  • Decrease in stock prices

Businesses rely on trust and confidentiality to maintain their competitive edge. If an NDA is violated, it may result in the loss of business relationships. Particularly, with partners and suppliers. 

The damage to brand reputation can have long-lasting effects, as it can be difficult to regain trust after a breach of confidentiality. 

Losing a competitive advantage can be particularly detrimental to businesses. It can impact their ability to innovate and stay ahead of competitors. A decrease in stock prices can result in financial losses for the company and its shareholders.

Criminal Consequences

Violating an NDA can result in criminal charges. Criminal charges may be filed if confidential information is used for illegal activities. This can include insider trading. 

In some cases, violating an NDA can result in a criminal record. This can have a lasting impact on future employment and career opportunities.

Loss of Reputation

Breaking an NDA can result in a loss of reputation for individuals and businesses. Loss of reputation can be particularly damaging to individuals. It can impact their ability to secure future employment opportunities. 

For businesses, the loss of reputation can impact their ability to attract and retain customers and partners. The damage to reputation can be difficult to repair, as it can take time to regain trust and credibility.

Examples of Consequences of Broken NDAs

There have been several high-profile cases of broken NDAs in recent years. Here are a few examples:


In 2018, news broke that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had obtained Facebook user data without their consent. 

A whistleblower named Christopher Wylie came forward and claimed that he had signed an NDA with Cambridge Analytica. He still felt compelled to speak out about the company’s data practices. The scandal led to widespread criticism of Facebook’s data privacy policies and raised questions about the use of personal data in political campaigns.

Harvey Weinstein

The Harvey Weinstein scandal in 2017 involved multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Several of his accusers had signed NDAs as part of their settlements with Weinstein, preventing them from speaking out about the incidents. The scandal sparked a larger conversation about the use of NDAs to silence victims of sexual harassment and assault.


In 2019, a former Apple employee was arrested and charged with stealing trade secrets from the company. The employee had allegedly taken confidential information related to Apple’s self-driving car project. Apple claimed he planned to use it in a new job at a Chinese startup. 

The case highlighted the risks of sharing confidential information with third parties and the importance of enforcing NDAs.

How to Avoid Breaking an NDA

Breaking an NDA can have serious consequences, so it’s essential to take steps to prevent a breach. Here are some ways to avoid breaking an NDA:

Understand the Confidentiality Agreement

The first step is to carefully read and understand the NDA. Make sure you know what is considered confidential information and what is not. If you’re unsure about anything, seek legal advice.

Limit Access to Confidential Information

Only share confidential information with people who have a legitimate need to know. Consider using access controls, such as passwords or security systems, to restrict who can access the information.

Mark Confidential InformationClearly mark confidential information as such, both in physical documents and electronically. This can help prevent accidental disclosures and ensure that everyone is aware of what is confidential.

Follow Secure Data Handling Procedures

Implement secure data handling procedures to protect confidential information. This includes measures such as encryption, firewalls, and secure storage.

Avoid Public Discussions

Avoid discussing confidential information in public places or on social media. Be mindful of who may be listening and the potential consequences of a breach.

Keep the NDA Up-to-Date

Review and update the NDA regularly to ensure that it is still effective and relevant. This is particularly important if there are changes to the information being protected or the people who have access to it.

Get Professional Advice

Finally, if you have any doubts or concerns about the NDA, seek professional legal advice. An attorney can help ensure that you are in compliance with the confidentiality agreement. 

They can offer guidance on how to protect confidential information. Depending on the industry you may need a specialized lawyer (e.g. media and entertainment lawyers)

Don’t Let an NDA Breach Ruin Your Reputation

Breaking an NDA can have serious consequences, ranging from financial penalties to irreparable damage to reputation and business relationships. It is essential to understand what is considered confidential information and take steps to prevent accidental disclosures. If you do find yourself in a situation where you have breached an NDA, it’s important to act quickly and seek legal advice to minimize the potential fallout.

Remember, an NDA is a legally binding contract, and failure to comply with the terms can have severe consequences. To avoid breaching an NDA, take steps to protect confidential information, limit access, and be mindful of public discussions. Keep the NDA up-to-date and seek legal advice if you have any doubts or concerns.

We hope this article has been helpful in shedding light on what happens if you break a non-disclosure agreement and the steps you can take to avoid a breach. Head to our Business Advice section to find more resources and articles on legal and business matters.