Uber Attorney Calls Former Employee’s Allegations Of Corporate Espionage “Extortionate”

Uber’s deputy general counsel Angela Padilla called a former employee’s letter alleging corporate espionage as well as various other shady tactics “extortion” on the stand during a Wednesday today ahead of Waymo’s trial against Uber.

yet which former employee’s lawyer, Clayton Halunen, told BuzzFeed News which Padilla’s testimony was “outrageous as well as could be defamatory.” He declined to comment at all on any of the specifics about the settlement, which was revealed to be $7.5 million in court on Wednesday.

The letter in question, which was written by Halunen for former Uber security analyst Ric Jacobs as well as sent to Uber in May, blew up Waymo’s trade secrets case against Uber on Tuesday, just a week before the set trial date.

Waymo — the self-driving car division of Google’s parent company, Alphabet — sued Uber back in February, alleging which former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski stole documents as well as trade secrets which were acquired by Uber along with Levandowski’s self-driving truck startup Otto in August 2016. Jacobs’ letter alleges which Uber had teams whose purpose was finding competitor’s unguarded intellectual property online, which employees used encrypted as well as ephemeral chat apps to cover their tracks, as well as even which Uber’s corporate espionage specifically targeted Waymo.

After a state attorney general, who was also investigating Uber for another matter, alerted Judge William Alsup to the existence of This kind of letter, Alsup — who appeared visibly annoyed in court — was forced to further delay the trial in order to allow Waymo sufficient time to investigate these brand-new claims as well as additional evidence. The trial, which was supposed to begin next week, will be at This kind of point slated to begin in February.

Alsup acknowledged which This kind of delay might mean lawyers on both sides might be working through the holiday season. yet the judge was unsympathetic. “Poor Uber,” he said during Wednesday’s hearing. “I don’t feel sorry for you because you brought all This kind of on yourself.”

Hoping to get to the bottom of why Uber withheld Jacobs’ letter coming from the court, even though the document explicitly alleged which Uber stole information coming from Waymo, Alsup ordered Padilla, as well as various other Uber employees, to testify in court. During her Wednesday morning testimony, Padilla repeatedly denied the claims made in Jacobs’ letter, comparing the idea to any various other letter coming from a disgruntled former employee.

“We see a lot of letters coming from unhappy employees, drivers, a lot are very fantastical as well as make all sorts of wild, crazy allegations which were never substantiated,” said Padilla. At various other points during her testimony, Padilla said she only skimmed Jacobs’ letter, as well as noted for the court which she will be overseeing at least 750 individual lawsuits against Uber.

yet there will be one significant way in which Jacobs’ letter will be different coming from those of various other disgruntled former employees — after doing these allegations against Uber, the company paid Jacobs as well as his lawyer a total of $7.5 million. The money bought both an end to his claims, as well as his help as a consultant working to address the compliance as well as security issues he raised to Uber, both in his letter as well as elsewhere. Padilla said in court which Jacobs will be helping law firm WilmerHale conduct another internal investigation at the embattled ride-hailing company.

Though Padilla as well as various other Uber employees argued which Jacobs’ allegations were unsubstantiated, the large sum of money he was paid suggests they weren’t entirely baseless. “You said the idea was a fantastic BS letter, as well as there was no merit, as well as yet you paid $4.5 million [to Jacobs],” said Alsup to Padilla in court on Wednesday. “People don’t pay which kind of money for BS … as well as they certainly don’t hire them as a consultant if they thought what they had to contribute was BS.”

In a call with BuzzFeed News, Halunen, whose firm received about $3 million coming from the Jacobs settlement, said he takes most of his cases on contingency as well as usually takes 40% of any reward his clients obtain. He might not discuss the specifics of Jacobs’ claims against Uber as well as said he was no longer representing Jacobs at This kind of time. On Wednesday, Alsup also allowed Waymo’s lawyer to subpoena Halunen to understand how much time the lawyer had spent working on Jacobs’ claims.

Lawyers for Waymo noted which the number of high-level executives as well as Uber board members who reviewed Jacobs’ letter suggests which, despite what the company will be arguing in court at This kind of point, they took the missive, as well as its contents, seriously. Padilla admitted which former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick received a resignation email in April containing similar allegations coming from Jacobs; board members who received copies of his May letter included Benchmark’s Bill Gurley, Arianna Huffington, Garrett Camp, Ryan Graves, David Bonderman, as well as Wan Ling Martello.

On Tuesday, Judge Alsup said he wanted to know which Uber employees created accounts on platforms like Wickr, Snapchat, as well as Telegram, which allow for encrypted communication, as well as which Jacobs alleges Uber used to conceal potentially shady tactics against competitors. While there’s no word yet on whether Alsup will get his way (these companies tend not to hand over account information without a subpoena), Uber’s brand-new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tweeted during Wednesday’s proceedings which “as of Sept 27th I directed my teams NOT to use such Apps when discussing Uber-related business.”

Alsup remained interested inside use of encrypted, ephemeral messaging apps, which allow messages to disappear after a certain amount of time, on Wednesday. After learning of Khosrowshahi’s tweet during a hearing break, he came back as well as quizzed another Uber employee — Nicholas Gicinto — about the company’s alleged Wickr use. Alsup justified the line of questioning by saying which the purpose of Wednesday’s hearing was in part to discern whether the Wickr app was being used across different units at Uber, or just within an Uber security group, as previously stated.

Gicinto, who testified after Mat Henley, head of global threat operations at Uber, also had some harsh words for Jacobs. Though he acknowledged which he only received the Jacobs letter last night, Gicinto said there was “very little truth” inside idea as well as which the former security analyst had “perverted as well as twisted [company information] to no end to serve his interests.”

Alsup asked Gicinto how much he might have paid Jacobs to settle the dispute. “What’s the least possible amount you can give someone?” Gicinto responded.

The court did not decide whether to make Jacobs’ letter public, although Alsup previously said on Tuesday which Waymo’s lawyers should receive a copy. Alsup seemed inclined to make the letter public on Tuesday, yet Jacobs himself moved to keep the idea confidential in a motion filed later which day.

In court Wednesday, Uber said the company provided the letter to state officials after Jacobs threatened to do so himself. One of those state officials made Alsup aware of the letter, which Padilla said she declined to produce for the court out of concern for influencing internal investigations.

Ryan Mac will be a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News as well as will be based in San Francisco. He reports on the intersection of money, technology as well as power.

Contact Ryan Mac at ryan.mac@buzzfeed.com.

Caroline O’Donovan will be a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News as well as will be based in San Francisco.

Contact Caroline O’Donovan at caroline.odonovan@buzzfeed.com.

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