The civil case stems from a lawsuit filed by Waymo - previously known as the Google self-driving auto unit - which claimed former manager Anthony Levandowski took technical data with him when he left to launch a competing venture that went on to become Otto and was later acquired by Uber.
In a damning letter released today, a former Uber employee, Richard Jacobs, claims that the company engaged in several illegal practices, including hacking, trade secret theft and surveillance - all in an effort to emerge at the top of the competitive ride-hailing market. He had worked as a security analyst for Uber until April of this year when he resigned after being demoted.
The company has denied the allegations. This included a non-disparagement clause and a one-year consulting contract to help Uber "root out bad behaviour", Jacobs said when he testified in federal court last month. "Uber did not tell the participants that the call was being recorded", the letter states. That omission outraged Alsup, who berated Uber's lawyers - who said they were unaware of the letter - for withholding evidence. To do this, multiple surveillance teams infiltrated private-event spaces at hotel and conference facilities that the group of [REDACTED] executives used during their stay. Jacobs claimed that Uber recorded and observed private conversations among the executives including their real-time reactions to the news that Uber would receive $3.4bn from the Saudi government.
Jacobs' attorney laid out his allegations in May in a letter to Uber's associate general counsel, according to the Justice document.
In June 2016, Uber Technologies Inc. contractors trained by the Central Intelligence Agency allegedly spied on another firm's executives and sent live video to then-Chief Executive Travis Kalanick in the company's "War Room".
In a statement to TechCrunch, an Uber spokesperson said, "While we haven't substantiated all the claims in this 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".
During his testimony last month, Jacobs repudiated some of the allegations made in his demand letter, saying that he had only reviewed it for 20 minutes before his lawyer had sent it.
"We're going to have to put the trial off because if even half of what's in that letter is true it would be a huge injustice to force Waymo to go to trial", Alsup said at a hearing on November 28.
Uber maintained that it did not withhold information because the letter was outside of Waymo's discovery demands.
Intelligence was gathered, the letter claims, "to determine which political figures may have been supporting opposition groups in the taxi/transport sector", as well as to identify someone or some group that had been allegedly ordered to "begin targeting Uber vehicles for harassment and impoundment".
"Mr. Jacobs' correspondence alleged systemic, institutionalized, and criminal efforts by Uber to hide evidence and steal trade secrets, not just as a general matter but also specifically involving the evidence and trade secrets at issue in this case - maybe the largest and most significant lawsuit Uber has ever faced", Cooper wrote.
The 37-page letter details the actions of the SSG and the Marketplace Analytics (MA) group which it claims "exists expressly for the objective of acquiring trade secrets, codebase, and competitive intelligence... from major ride-sharing competitors globally".