Uber is getting hit with accusations that it has a secret unit that was created to steal trade secrets, according to news from The Financial Times, citing information from the pretrial hearing between Uber and Alphabet’s self-driving car unit Waymo. Waymo has accused Uber of stealing proprietary technology to use for its own self-driving car initiative.
Based on testimony provided during a pretrial hearing on Tuesday (Nov. 28), Uber’s lawsuit with Waymo may have only scratched the surface of a wider effort on the part of the leading ridesharing company to get its hands on the work of its rivals. Judge William Alsup, who is presiding over the trial, postponed it after hearing the testimony, which first appeared in a letter from Richard Jacobs, Uber’s former manager of global intelligence.
“Any company that would set up a surreptitious system is just as suspicious as can be,” Judge Alsup said. “You’re just making the impression that this is a total cover-up.” The U.S. Attorney’s office notified the judge that the government agency thinks the trade secret-stealing unit is important information that was withheld from the case.
In the letter, Jacobs described sophisticated ways Uber evaded current and future legal requests. Jacobs and Uber settled earlier this year, with Jacobs getting $4.5 million, including a promise to help with an internal inquiry into the allegations he made in his letter. The Financial Times noted Uber is facing five or more federal inquires into different aspects of its business.
The company was in the spotlight again in recent days after revealing that it covered up a massive data breach for about a year, paying the hackers $100,000 to keep quiet. That has resulted in investigations from Attorneys General around the country and regulators around the world. Uber has said it is cooperating with all investigations. The hack happened before the company’s new CEO came on board, who has since been tasked with correcting the culture at the ridesharing company.