Anthony Levandowski, the former Google The engineer and serial entrepreneur, who was at the center of a legal dispute between Uber and Waymo, pleaded guilty to stealing business secrets while working at Google as part of an informed consent agreement with the U.S. District Attorney.
While Levandowski is still faced with a possible prison sentence of between 24 and 30 months, the result is much rosier than it could have been. In August, the federal grand jury sued Levandowski for 33 thefts and attempted thefts. He was dealing with a protracted litigation and a process that was not to start until 2021.
"Mr. Levandowski takes responsibility and looks forward to solving this issue. Mr. Levandowski is a young man with tremendous talent and a lot to contribute to the fast-moving world of AI and AV, and we hope that this plea will enable him to be Continuing life and focusing your energies where they matter most. ”Attorney, Miles Ehrlich said in an emailed statement.
As part of the plea agreement, Levandowski admits to having downloaded thousands of files related to Project Chauffeur, the self-driving Google project that later became Waymo . Levandowski was an engineer and one of the founding members of the Chauffeur project, which started in 2009. Scroll down to read the consent form.
He said that in 2015, before starting his own self-driving freight forwarder, he downloaded 14,000 documents from an internal Google server and transferred them to his laptop. Levandowski expressly pleaded guilty to counting 33 of the charges, which was related to taking what was known to be Chauffeur Weekly Update, a table with a variety of details, including quarterly goals and weekly metrics, the team's goals and key results, as well as summaries of 15 technical challenges the program is facing and notes on previous challenges was overcome after submission.
Levandowski said in the informed consent that he downloaded the Chauffeur Weekly Update on his personal laptop on or around January 17, 2016 and accessed the document after he resigned from Google about 10 days later.
"Mr. Levandowski's confession of guilty hearing today ends a groundbreaking process for our company and the self-driving industry, and underscores Waymos' value intellectual property, ”said a Waymo spokesman in an emailed statement. "With today's development and related cases, we successfully protect our intellectual property while building the world's most experienced driver."
Levandowski left Google and started Otto, a self-driving freight forwarder, which was then bought by Uber. Waymo later sued Uber for theft of business secrets. Waymo alleged in the lawsuit, which was brought to justice and ended in an agreement, that Levandowski had stolen business secrets that Uber would use. As part of the settlement, Uber agreed not to include Waymo's confidential information in its hardware and software. Uber also agreed to pay a financial settlement that contained 0.34% of Uber equity per $ 72 billion G-1 series valuation. At that time, this resulted in Uber equity of approximately $ 244.8 million.
The plea deal ends all criminal charges. However, Levandowski is still facing a civil issue. An arbitration panel ruled in December that Levandowski and Lior Ron had been caught up in unfair competition and breached their contract with Google when they left the company to set up a competing autonomous vehicle company called Otto that focused on trucking. Uber acquired Otto in 2017. Earlier this month, the San Francisco District Court upheld the panel's decision and asked Levandowski to pay $ 179 million.
Ron resigned to Google in February 2019 for $ 9.7 million. Levandowski had contested the verdict. The San Francisco County Supreme Court rejected his petition and upheld Google's petition to tie Levandowski to the arbitration agreement, for which he was liable. Levandowski himself may not have to pay the money personally, as this type of liability is incumbent on his employer depending on his contract or other legal quirks. However, Levandowski personally filed for bankruptcy on March 4, stating that the suspected $ 179 million in debt far exceeds his assets, which he estimates to be between $ 50 and $ 100 million.
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