Uber has officially asked Anthony Levandowski — the former head of the company’s self-driving efforts and the executive at the center of the Alphabet lawsuit — to waive his Fifth Amendment rights and cooperate with a court’s order to turn over any files he may have downloaded, including those on his personal device.
Levandowski asserted his Fifth Amendment rights earlier this year seeking to protect himself if the case becomes criminal — which is a possibility.
Now, Uber’s general counsel Salle Yoo is asking him to waive those rights and comply with the court’s order to turn over his personal device as well as any downloaded materials he has and the names of all those he ever communicated about these files with. If he doesn’t, Yoo reminds him that his employment is at-will.
“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 and such termination would be for Cause,” the letter from Uber General Counsel Salle Yoo reads.
It’s a major shift in Uber’s tone with Levandowski, who has a close working relationship with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.
Importantly, that’s because the court has ordered Uber to “exercise the full extent of [its] corporate, employment, contractual, and other authority to cause them to return the downloaded materials and all copies, excerpts, and summaries thereof to Waymo.”
Alphabet has sued Uber and its subsidiary Otto, claiming that Levandowski stole 14,000 files that included the design for a key radar technology before leaving the company. Uber has disputed that it used any of Alphabet’s tech but it doesn’t deny Levandowski may have taken the proprietary information.
Notably, Alphabet shifted the focus of its patent infringement claims to a radar prototype that Uber no longer uses instead of those that are still being developed.
Previously, Uber had asked Levandowski to voluntarily recuse himself of all work with lidar, the technology in question. That recusal has since been sanctioned by the court as part of a preliminary injunction the judge granted Alphabet.
Uber has otherwise handled Levandowski with a light touch.
Part of the reason could be that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Levandowski are close. In fact, as we first reported, Kalanick turned to Levandowski around the same time he launched Otto to help get Uber’s autonomous cars on the road. The duo, who are also planning to attend the Indy 500 together later this month according to sources, spent a great deal of time together both prior to and during Levandowski’s employment.
But Levandowski’s priority — protecting himself from criminal action — has been in conflict with Uber’s attempts to do away with this lawsuit and go ahead with its autonomous efforts.
“Frankly, we obviously have a conflict here,” Uber’s attorney Arturo Gonzalez said to Judge Alsup during a closed-door hearing in April.
“I would love to put Mr. Levandowski on the stand to explain to you what happened, because I think he has a good story to tell,” Gonzalez said. “But I can't force him to do that.”
Now Uber is asking him to do just that.
The letter reads:
We understand that this letter requires you to turn over information wherever located, including but not limited to, your personal devices, and to waive any Fifth Amendment protection you may have. Also, the requirement that your lawyers cooperate with us and turn over information that may be in their possession may invade your attorney-client privilege. While we have respected your personal liberties, it is our view that the Court’s Order requires us to make these demands of you. Footnote 9 of the Order specifically states that “in complying with this order, Uber has no excuse under the Fifth Amendment to pull any punches as to Levandowski.”
Here’s the full letter:
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.