A federal grand jury indicted a former Google executive for allegedly stealing documents from the company that contained troves of information related to the Silicon Valley giant’s self-driving car technology, federal officials noted Tuesday.
The indictment alleges that Anthony Levandowski, who abruptly resigned from Google in January 2016, downloaded 14,000 files containing information about Google’s autonomous-vehicle research. He then made an unauthorized transfer of the files to his personal laptop after leaving the company, the indictment said.
“All of us have the right to change jobs,” U.S. Attorney David Anderson said in a statement. He added: “None of us has the right to fill our pockets on the way out the door. Theft is not innovation.” Levandowski was involved with two self-driving companies at the time: Tyto and 280 Systems, which would later become Ottomotto. Uber acquired Ottomotto in August 2016.
“The Bay Area has the best and brightest engineers, and they take big risks,” John Bennett, the FBI special agent in charge of the San Francisco Division, said at a conference announcing the indictment. “But Silicon Valley is not the wild West. The fast-paced and competitive environment does not mean federal laws do not apply.”
The indictment charges Levandowski with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets. He is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday before U.S. Judge Nathanael Cousins. (RELATED: Ride-Hailing Company Uber Reports $5 Billion Loss)
Uber is cooperating “with the government throughout their investigation and will continue to do so,” the company said in a statement released after the announcement. Levandowski’s attorneys are denying their client stole any documents.
“This case rehashes claims already discredited in a civil case that settled more than a year and a half ago,” they told reporters. “The downloads at issue occurred while Anthony was still working at Google — when he and his team were authorized to use the information. None of these supposedly secret files ever went to Uber or to any other company.”
Waymo, which operates Google’s self-driving operation, praised the investigation and the indictment. “We have always believed competition should be fueled by innovation, and we appreciate the work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI on this case,” the company noted in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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