Uber-Waymo case: Dramatic turn as judge says Uber lawyers withheld evidence

Posted November 29, 2017

Waymo has asked the court for additional depositions with Uber's former CEO Travis Kalanick and Uber's lawyers to investigate the details contained in the Jacobs letter. According to Law360, a California judge ruled in Waymo's favor on Tuesday after Waymo accused Uber of hiding evidence that was discovered by federal prosecutors. "I had questions about the ethics of it". The judge has repeatedly criticized Uber in strong terms for withholding information and he had previously suspected possible criminal behavior. He didn't specify which competitors Uber had targeted but said some of the stolen information involved drivers.

Uber employees researching rivals were given training with the goal to "impede, obstruct or influence any lawsuit against Uber", Jacobs said, including a communication strategy "to ensure we didn't create a paper trail that came back to haunt the company in any potential civil or criminal litigation".

The unit worked in parallel to Uber, and used "anonymous servers" that were separate from the main company to carry out its work.

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Of particular note was testimony from Richard Jacobs, a former Uber security employee who said the company had a team that specialized in high-level corporate espionage.

Pressed under questioning, Jacobs acknowledged that the letter also alleged that Uber had stolen trade secrets from Waymo, as well as other intellectual property in the U.S. He insisted he didn't know anything about Uber's espionage team trying to steal anything in the US, explaining he missed the purported mistake because he spent only about 20 minutes reviewing it while he was on vacation with his wife. Jacobs said he received instructions on secure communication from Craig Clark, who was recently dismissed from Uber for his role in covering up a data breach.

Jacobs is said to claimed that his unit was told not to "create a paper trail that could come back to haunt Uber" - although where and how Jacobs made that claim is unclear since all the documents are under seal and neither the judge nor Waymo lawyer referenced where the information had come from.

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It was the second time the judge has agreed to delay a trial at Waymo's request. The letter reportedly had several bombshell revelations, including methods that Uber instructed employees to evade investigations. But the judge wasn't swayed. "There's enough there under oath to believe there's a 50-50 chance it will turn out to be something very bad for Uber".

Waymo had requested the delay on Monday so it could look into whether or not Uber had withheld evidence in the case. "None of the testimony (Tuesday) changes the merits of the case", Uber said.

Uber Technologies Inc withheld evidence in a lawsuit filed by Alphabet Inc's Waymo, a US judge said on Tuesday, delaying a trial to give Waymo time to review a letter alleging Uber trained employees to steal trade secrets and hide their tracks. A new start date hasn't been set.

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Waymo claims that the letter explains why the 14,000 documents stolen by Anthony Levandowski did not appear on Uber's servers. After Levandowski left Google in 2016 (before parent company Alphabet spun Waymo into its own company), he launched the autonomous truck company Otto and sold it to Uber.