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5/19/2017 11:10:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Uber Threatens to Fire Anthony Levandowski


Anthony Levandowski by John Sommers II for Transport Topics

Uber Technologies Inc. threatened to fire the man at the center of its legal battle with Alphabet Inc., telling its top driverless technology engineer, Anthony Levandowski, to either deny taking files from his former employer or turn them over.

Uber General Counsel Salle Yoo made the demand in a May 15 letter to Levandowski, citing a court order. Yoo told him that failure to comply with the demand could result in his termination from the company, according to a court filing. The engineer formerly worked at Alphabet’s Waymo unit.

“If you do not agree to comply with all of the requirements set forth herein, or if you fail to comply in a material manner, then Uber will take adverse employment action against you, which may include termination of your employment,” Yoo wrote in the letter.

Levandowski led Uber’s autonomous vehicle program until he was demoted last month. The Alphabet unit claims he downloaded thousands of confidential files before he left the company to launch his own self-driving startup, Otto, that was acquired by Uber for $680 million.

Levandowski, who isn’t a defendant in Waymo’s lawsuit, argued in a court filing that U.S. District Judge William Alsup’s May 11 order had imposed an impossible burden on the engineer. It forces him to choose between his Constitutional rights against self-incrimination or his job, and the order should be amended, his lawyer, Miles Ehrlich, wrote in the filing.

The order "leaves little room for interpretation," Ehrlich wrote. "Anything short of firing Mr. Levandowski to get him to waive his Fifth Amendment rights and attorney-client privileges would put Uber at risk of contempt, since it would fail to measure up to the court’s command that Uber exercise every lawful power it has over Mr. Levandowski."

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By Joel Rosenblatt
Bloomberg News


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