Things are getting a whole lot worse for Uber, well, have been getting progressively worse. The US Department of Justice today confirmed in a letter that it is investigating Uber. The letter was submitted to a judge that’s overseeing Alphabet’s lawsuit against Uber. This is the first official confirmation we have that federal prosecutors are probing Uber’s alleged theft of trade secrets from Alphabet.
The letter, addressed to federal judge William Alsup, was sent from the office of Acting US Attorney Alex Tse from the Northern District of California. Tse confirmed that prosecutors had interviewed ex-Uber security analyst Richard Jacobs, whose letter to Uber’s legal team was made public recently. Per the interview, Jacobs told investigators everything in the following memo:
Mr. Jacobs informed the government that shortly after the Uber/Otto acquisition, Ed Russo (an Uber employee in the Strategic Services Group (“SSG”)) gave a presentation in which he described a hypothetical scenario in which Uber’s SSG could arrange to have two CEOs meet covertly for a long period of time prior to an acquisition of one company by another. Mr. Jacobs and other Uber employees believed that this “hypothetical” scenario was in fact a recounting of efforts taken by SSG to protect meetings between Travis Kalanick and Anthony Levandowski.
Mr. Jacobs further stated that Uber employees routinely used non-attributable electronic devices to store and transmit information that they wished to separate from Uber’s official systems. He surmised that any wrongfully-obtained intellectual property could be stored on such devices, and that such action would prevent the intellectual property from being discovered in a review of Uber’s systems.
Alphabet sued Uber due to thousands of documents stolen by former Google self-driving engineer Anthony Lavendowski. Right after Levandowski left Google, he founded Otto, which was a self-driving truck startup. Otto was then acquired by Uber. Waymo’s lawyers have said that Uber orchestrated this entire acquisition process with Otto to make it look like it had nothing to do with the allegedly stolen files and that it was just buying Otto to bolster its own business.
In a statement to New York Times, Uber spokesperson said that “While we haven’t substantiated all the claims in Mr. Jacobs’ letter — and, importantly, any related to Waymo — our new leadership has made clear that going forward we will compete honestly and fairly, on the strength of our ideas and technology.”