clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Alphabet wants a judge to force Uber to turn over the investor letter asking Travis Kalanick to resign

Alphabet says the letter is relevant because shareholders reportedly blamed the former Uber CEO for putting the company at legal risk.

TechCrunch 8th Annual Crunchies Awards Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Alphabet is asking a judge to force Uber to turn over a letter that a number of key investors delivered to former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick demanding his resignation.

The letter could contain information that may help Alphabet determine what Uber knew about the 14,000 proprietary files former executive Anthony Levandowski allegedly stole, Alphabet’s attorneys claim in a new filing. That’s because, in the letter these shareholders — which included board member Bill Gurley’s venture capital firm Benchmark — reportedly blamed Kalanick for putting Uber at legal risk, citing the company’s trade secret dispute with Alphabet’s self-driving arm, Waymo.

But in a filing late Wednesday, Uber says that letter is not relevant and only briefly mentions the lawsuit.

“Indeed, the letter contains only a passing reference to this litigation — nothing more, and says nothing about patents or the alleged misappropriation,” Uber’s filing reads.

Alphabet — which was an early major investor in Uber, adding to the drama here — is suing the ride-hail company for misappropriation of trade secrets. It has claimed that Levandowski stole these documents in order to bring them to Uber, which acquired his autonomous truck startup a few months after he founded it.

Uber’s lawyers initially said they were still looking for the letter as of yesterday evening, leading Alphabet to accuse the company of deleting evidence. But in its new filing, Uber says its attorneys have now gotten hold of the document and are willing to submit it to the court for inspection to confirm that it’s not subject to discovery.

Alphabet further claimed it wasn’t the first time Uber deleted important evidence.

The company alleges that Kalanick deleted all his text messages to Levandowski, as well as all the messages he received from Levandowski before February 2016.

Alphabet’s letter to the court reads:

For example, Uber has informed Waymo that Mr. Kalanick, who personally recruited Mr. Levandowski, negotiated the Ottomotto acquisition, and was then and continues to be an Uber Board member, deleted from his phone all text messages he sent to Mr. Levandowki at any time. Uber has also told Waymo that Mr. Kalanick deleted all text messages he received from Mr. Levandowski dated before February 2016. (Id.) And now, according to Uber, members of Uber’s Board of Directors may be destroying evidence even after the filing of the Complaint and after litigation holds have (finally) been issued.”

Uber rebuts those claims and said that the messages didn’t appear in the first analysis of his phone because of a technical issue. According to Uber’s filing, the first report submitted to the court included texts Levandowski sent to Kalanick, but not vice versa. A second firm did another analysis of the phone and found that outgoing messages were not being associated with the recipients of the messages, according to the filing.

“The outgoing messages were therefore not as easily compiled, but are in fact located within the cell phone image,” Uber’s letter reads. “There is no evidence whatsoever that Mr. Kalanick intentionally deleted any text messages with Mr. Levandowski or anyone else.”

In its pursuit of learning if and when Uber knew about files Levandowski allegedly stole, Alphabet is also seeking to depose former and current board members Gurley, Arianna Huffington and TPG Capital’s David Bonderman. The company claims they would have firsthand knowledge of details of the acquisition because Uber’s board of directors reviewed a due diligence document on it and had final say on the purchase.

The ride-hail company isn’t having it. Uber is seeking a protective order against that deposition, saying that Alphabet has yet to prove that the board members have “unique, firsthand knowledge.”

The letter reads:

“Instead, Waymo is relying on the generic assertion that the Board Members must have relevant information simply by virtue of their positions at the top of Uber’s corporate structure, and a vague speculation based on press accounts that Mr. Gurley and Ms. Huffington might have some unspecified further information Waymo believes is somehow relevant to this case.”

This article originally appeared on