Ex-Google engineer files bankruptcy after he’s ordered to pay $179M for stealing

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A former Google engineer accused of stealing trade secrets for Uber has filed for bankruptcy after being ordered to pay $179 million to his former employer.

Anthony Levandowski, 39,  the engineer and autonomous vehicle startup founder was the central figure of one of Silicon Valley’s most-watched courtroom battles, when Google’s self-driving car company Waymo sued Uber for $2 billion, accusing it of using trade secrets stolen by Levandowski.

The court order was first reported by Reuters.

Levandowski allegedly downloaded 14,000 Waymo documents in December 2015 as he was about to leave his job after being poached by then-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, The Post reported.

An arbitration panel ruled in December that Levandowski and Lior Ron engaged in unfair competition and breached their contract with Google  when they left the company to start a rival autonomous vehicle company focused on trucking, called Otto. Uber  acquired Otto in 2017. A San Francisco County court confirmed Wednesday the panel’s decision.

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Ron settled last month with Google for $9.7 million, Techcrunch reported. However, Levandowski, had disputed the ruling. The San Francisco County Superior Court denied his petition Thursday, granting Google’s petition to hold Levandowski to the arbitration agreement under which he was liable.

The court order was first reported by Reuters.

After being ordered to pay $179 million to Google, he promptly filed for bankruptcy, claiming that his total asset is less than $100 million.

The order is a confirmation of a December ruling by an arbitration panel that Levandowski violated an agreement he had with Google to not poach employees, which he allegedly did when he left the company.

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It is not yet clear whether Levandowski will have to cough out the $179 million to Google. Uber agreed to pay his legal fees as part of his employment with the company. However, the ride-hail giant indicated Monday that it might not pay up easily.

“While Uber and Levandowski are parties to an indemnification agreement, whether Uber is ultimately responsible for such indemnification is subject to a dispute between the company and Levandowski,” Uber said.

“This arbitration was not about trade secrets but about employees leaving Google for new opportunities and an engineer being used as a pawn by two tech giants,” said Levandowski’s lawyer, Neel Chatterjee of Goodwin Procter. “Google fought tooth and nail to take back every penny paid to Anthony for his multibillion dollar contributions and now Uber is refusing to indemnify Anthony despite explicitly agreeing to do so. Anthony had no choice but to file for bankruptcy to protect his rights as he pursues the relief he is legally entitled to.”

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(CNN Business) Anthony Levandowski, a former Uber executive who oversaw its self-driving vehicle efforts, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Tuesday for stealing an internal tracking document from Google related to its self-driving car program.

“This is the biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen. This was not small. This was massive in scale,” said US District Judge William Alsup in sentencing Levandowski on one count of trade secret theft, according to a Department of Justice press release.