×

Judge says Uber 'withheld evidence' as new bombshell allegations emerge in Alphabet trial

  • Former Uber security analyst, Richard Jacobs, said there was a directive for Uber employees to use disappearing chat apps like Wickr, and that Uber sent employees to Pittsburgh to "educate" on how to prevent "Uber's unlawful schemes from seeing the light of day."
  • The allegations were made in a hearing in a lawsuit between Uber and Alphabet's Waymo self-driving car unit.
Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber.
Matthew Staver | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber.

Uber faced fresh allegations on Tuesday that it deliberately took steps to keep "unlawful schemes from seeing the light of day."

Hours of testimony on Tuesday centered around a letter from a former Uber security analyst's attorney to an Uber lawyer. The former analyst, Richard Jacobs testified that there was a directive for Uber employees to use disappearing chat apps like Wickr. In his letter, Jacobs said that Uber sent employees to Pittsburgh (where it's developing its autonomous vehicles) to "educate" them on how to prevent "Uber's unlawful schemes from seeing the light of day."

He reportedly made other bombshell allegations in the letter, including that employees at Uber were trained to "impede" ongoing investigations, multiple media outlets reported.

Uber hired several contractors that employed former CIA agents to help infiltrate its rivals' computers overseas, Jacobs said during questioning, as reported by the Associated Press.

Jacobs said he has spoken with government officials about his allegations. He also backed away from some of the allegations in the letter, much of which was redacted from public view.

Ed Russo, a current member of the Uber risk and threat analysis team, also disputed some of the allegations in the letter in testimony on Tuesday. He told the court that it was never the role of him or his team "to engage in theft of trade secrets."

Trial delayed

The allegations were made in a hearing in a lawsuit between Uber and Alphabet's Waymo self-driving car unit.

Waymo sued Uber in February, claiming that former Waymo executive Anthony Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 confidential files before leaving to set up a self-driving truck company, called Otto, which Uber acquired soon after.

Levandowski has declined to answer questions about the allegations, citing constitutional protections against self-incrimination.

Russo said former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick never consulted the security team on communications with Levandowski over the acquisition of Levandowski's company Otto.

A trial was set to begin on December 4, but was delayed on Tuesday in a win for Waymo, which had requested more time to investigate the allegations in the letter. Waymo said it learned of the new evidence last week after the U.S. Department of Justice shared it with the judge overseeing the case.

At the hearing in San Francisco federal court, U.S. District Judge William Alsup said it would be a "huge injustice" to force Waymo to go to trial now, adding that Uber "withheld evidence."

Waymo said Uber concealed the letter despite demands from Waymo and the judge to disclose all relevant evidence. "The public is going to hear everything" about the disputed evidence, the judge said at Tuesday's hearing.

Waymo told CNBC the new evidence was "significant and troubling" and lauded the opportunity for more investigation.

But Uber noted that Jacobs testified that he was not aware of any Waymo trade secrets being stolen.

"None of the testimony today changes the merits of the case," an Uber spokesperson said.

Alsup already delayed the trial once before, in October, citing Waymo's need to probe separate evidence Uber had not promptly disclosed.

The hearing caps a month of difficult press for Uber. Earlier this month, the company revealed an unrelated data breach that was deliberately concealed.

— Reuters contributed to this report.