Tesla is suing a former employee, accusing him of exporting large amounts of confidential company data to third parties.
A lawsuit filed in Nevada on Wednesday, June 20 also alleges that the technician, Martin Tripp, made false statements to the media about the company, for example, “that Tesla was delayed in bringing new manufacturing equipment online.”
First reported by CNBC, the lawsuit claims that Tripp has “thus far admitted to writing software that hacked Tesla’s manufacturing operating system (‘MOS’) and to transferring several gigabytes of Tesla data to outside entities,” including “dozens of confidential photographs and a video of Tesla’s manufacturing systems.” It also accuses him of writing computer code “to periodically export Tesla’s data off its network and into the hands of third parties.”
The suit claims that Tripp, who was at the company for eight months, became upset after failing to receive a desired promotion at Tesla and had been causing trouble among fellow workers as a result.
But Tripp told the Washington Post on Wednesday that he did not interfere with the company’s internal systems and instead wanted to blow the lid on “some really scary things” he claims to have seen at the company. This includes an accusation that Tesla shipped Model 3 cars with damaged batteries, something the company vehemently denies. He also confirmed to the Post that he gave information to Business Insider in early June for an article about Tesla’s raw-material waste.
Tripp, 40, denied hacking into any of Tesla’s computers, and said he wasn’t bothered about the failure to get a promotion.
News that Tesla had tracked down what it claimed to be a rogue employee first emerged at the start of this week after several news outlets came into possession of an email sent by Tesla CEO Elon Musk to employees on Sunday.
In the email, Musk said he was “dismayed” to discover that an employee has been conducting “quite extensive and damaging sabotage to our operations.”
Musk: There are many who “want Tesla to die”
Tesla is trying to find out if Tripp’s alleged wrongdoing was a lone act or if he was working with others inside or outside of the company. Musk said in his email that there’s a “long list” of organizations that “want Tesla to die,” among them competitors in the auto industry, Wall Street short-sellers, and oil and gas firms who “don’t love the idea of Tesla advancing the progress of solar power and electric cars.”
The CEO urged his employees to be extremely vigilant over the next few weeks as the company seeks to ramp up Model 3 production, noting that “this is when outside forces have the strongest motivation to stop us.”
In another email seen by CNBC, Musk said the production line at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California had to be temporarily halted because of a small fire on Sunday night. Suggesting that the cause of the incident wasn’t clear, Musk once again urged those on the factory floor to “be on the alert for anything that’s not in the best interests of our company.”
Tesla is feeling the heat as it endeavors to ramp up production of its Model 3 electric car, for which it’s taken around half a million orders.
Musk’s company had originally aimed for a weekly production run of 5,000 Model 3 cars by the end of last year, but failed to hit the target. It’s currently making 3,500 a week but wants to increase that to 5,000 before the start of July.
It’s also seen several high-profile departures from the company, and recently announced it was laying off around 3,000 workers as part of restructuring efforts. Those working directly on the Model 3 are not affected.
The discovery of a suspected rogue employee is a serious issue for Tesla, and a distraction that it clearly doesn’t need. Now it must find out if the employee’s alleged behavior is part of something more sinister so it can put things right and focus fully on its efforts to push forward with production.
Updated on June 21: Added news of Tesla suing former employee.
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