Levandowski refused to hand over documents he allegedly stole
Uber has fired Anthony Levandowski, a star engineer who ran the company’s self-driving car division before being accused of stealing trade secrets from rival Waymo.
The notice was given on Friday, according to a termination letter obtained by the Washington Post. Uber says Levandowski violated his terms of employment by refusing to comply with a judge’s request to turn over documents he allegedly stole from Waymo and then uploaded onto his personal computer. The termination letter claims Levandowki’s refusal to comply with the request hurt Uber’s internal investigation and its ability to defend itself in the lawsuit.
Levandowksi was a senior engineer at Waymo before he left in 2016 to start an autonomous truck company called Otto, which was later bought by Uber. He then ran Uber’s self-driving car unit before stepping aside from those duties pending the Waymo litigation.
Recently, a federal judge ruled that Uber must return stolen confidential files to Waymo by the end of May. Waymo showed “compelling evidence” that Levandowski downloaded confidential documents from Waymo computers before leaving the company, the judge said. He also argued that Uber either knew, or should have known, that Levandowski took the potentially sensitive files and that some of the trade secrets trickled down to Uber’s own work.
Levandowski’s lawyers have cried foul over the firing. They argue he cannot be fired for exercising his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Uber has faced plenty of challenges recently, including controversy surrounding its former practice of greyballing as well as allegations of a widespread culture of sexual harassment. And Uber has another reason to worry now that Waymo has partnered with Lyft on the development of autonomous cars.
Source: Washington Post