Uber has threatened to fire Anthony Levandowski, the executive in the midst of its litigation with Google, if he refuses to turn over any files he allegedly stole from the tech giant.
Levandowski left Google in January 2016 to launch the self-driving truck start-up Otto, which Uber later acquired for $680 million.
Waymo, Google’s self-driving car project, accused Levandowski of stealing 14,000 autonomous tech design files before leaving the company—and has said Otto was only a ruse designed by Uber to steal its intellectual property.
During the litigation, Levandowski invoked his Fifth Amendment rights to avoid self-incrimination. William Alsup, the judge overseeing the case, has referred it to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for a criminal investigation over possible alleged trade secrets theft, the core of Waymo’s accusations.
Alsup ordered Levandowski to turn over any documents he might have, has said that Levandowski’s reliance on the Fifth doesn’t prevent Uber from firing him, and has compelled Uber to do whatever it needs to produce the allegedly stolen files.
Uber has begun step to fire Levandowski. Last week, Levandowski’s lawyer filed a motion asking the judge to amend his ruling that Uber could terminate the engineer for relying on the Fifth. As part of the court filing, Levandowski’s lawyers submitted a correspondence from Uber’s general counsel, imploring the engineer to comply with Alsup’s order.
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