Ride-hailing company Uber is refusing to pay former employee Anthony Levandowski's $179 million debt to Google because he had admitted committing a fraud.
Uber's statement to the US Bancruptcy Court of Northern California was part of its reply to Levandowski's motion which sought to involve Uber in arbitration in the hope that the company would pay part of the $179 million legal recompense awarded to Google in March this year.
While Uber agreed to arbitration in this case, the company challenged Levandowski's claim to it to stick by the indemnity agreement that Uber had signed in 2016 when it appointed Levandowski as the head of its self-driving programme and acquired Levandowski's self-driving truck start-up Otto.
Under the indemnity agreement, Uber had agreed to compensate Levandowski against legal claims brought by his former employer, Alphabet.
Levandowski worked at Alphabet for nearly 8 years before leaving the company to start his self-driving truck start-up, which was acquired by Uber for $680 million in August 2016.
In 2017, Alphabet brought a civil lawsuit against Uber, accusing the firm of stealing intellectual property belonging to Waymo, Google's self-driving car project. Alphabet alleged that Levandowski had downloaded 9.7 gigabytes of intellectual property from Waymo servers before leaving the company.
According to Uber, Levandowski had concealed the fact that he had stolen trade secrets from Alphabet with intention to use them at Uber.
"If Uber had known that Levandowski had deliberately downloaded Google confidential trade secrets to use those secrets while at Uber, then Uber would not have completed the Otto acquisition, and would not have entered into the indemnification agreement," Uber said.
Uber withdrew the indemnification agreement in April 2018, and notified Levandowski that it would not indemnify him for any final award, and would instead have a right to recover fees from him.
In August last year, a federal grand jury indicted Levandowski with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of Alphabet's trade secrets. According to the US Department of Justice, Levandowski downloaded nearly 14,000 files from Waymo servers to his laptop in the months leading up to his departure from the company in 2016.
Uber argues that Levandowski's guilty plea is evidence of his dishonesty.
Levandowski's lawyer, Neel Chatterjee, told Bloomberg that Uber can't withdraw from the indemnification agreement because it had vetted Levandowski before appointing him as the head of its self-driving programme and knew that he had taken proprietary information from Alphabet's Waymo project.
He argued that the ride-hailing firm was trying to wriggle out of its contract to protect Levandowski "because it did not like the outcome" of his legal fight with Alphabet.
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