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Levandowski files suit against Uber [pdf] (eternum.io)
112 points by MrSandman 26 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 91 comments

This is an interesting claim. It basically says that Uber knew about Levandowski's crimes when they agreed to indemnify him against claims brought by Google. Given the way Uber seems to work, this wouldn't surprise me at all. There seems to be a lot of bullshit in this claim, but that specific piece wouldn't surprise me.

Mostly unrelatedly, this part seems particularly shitty:

> In fact, Uber had considered acquiring Tyto in 2015 but declined to do so at that time. Tyto was ultimately acquired by Otto with Uber’s consent and at Uber’s request prior to Uber closing on its acquisition of Otto to secure a lower price for Tyto than what Tyto would have requested had it known that Uber was the acquirer.

The kind of people who will work with you to rip off others are also the kind of people who will rip you off. Who knew?

That is related, and the Tyto thing is arguably not shitty in the context of this case, given Leandowski's improper affiliation with Tyto while he was at Google was one of the pieces of the case. It's hard to say they got cheated or something when he basically controlled both companies.

> Specifically, Uber was aware that Mr. Levandowski had facilitated the relationship between Tyto’s founder and its investor, a holding company managed by Mr. Stojanovski that invested funds provided by two irrevocable trusts formed for the benefit of Mr. Levandowski’s children, and would visit Tyto and his friends at that company to talk about technical and business matters from time to time. Uber was also aware of Pierre Droz’ (a Google employee) allegations that Mr. Levandowski was involved with Tyto and even deposed him extensively on that very topic during the Waymo litigation.

Part of Google's claims (rightly, imo, though ianal) was that Levandowski had a stake or outright controlled Tyto while he was at Google and before he had even formed Otto.

Just before your quoted section shows how shady the whole thing was.

>Uber’s claims were false. Uber accepted Mr. Levandowski’s tender of indemnity only after Google’s commencement of the arbitration proceeding alleging claims relating to Tyto and only after Mr. Levandowski had been interviewed by Uber extensively about Google’s allegations relating to Tyto. In addition, Mr. Levandowski’s devices given to Stroz had extensive information about Tyto on them. And Stroz had specifically identified other materials on Mr. Levandowski’s devices that he had not disclosed during interviews.

This is basically Uber saying (among other things) "yeah, we didn't know you were connected to Odin Wave/Tyto that Google is making claims about, that's outside the indemnity agreement."

And his response is "Oh no, you totally knew"

Hah...I remember guessing this might happen a few months ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22633584

Levandowski & Ron behaved like common crooks.

I don’t think so. When you sell a company you are relinquishing control of it. The acquirer wants to turn around and sell to Uber that’s none of your business. You aren’t entitled to know the ultimate acquirer to set your price any more than CVS is entitled to know my income to set my price for a bottle of Coke on a hot day.

I'd consider it more like accepting a new job. Your new employer is totally entitled to reorg and transfer you to a new team you wouldn't have wanted to join on week 3. But if they planned on transferring you out of the position all along, while they were simultaneously convincing you to leave your old job for this cool new position that you'll totally get to have (for two weeks), then they're being shitty.

If I found out that my new employer/acquirer was dishonest to get me on board with the terms we ended up on, sure they "won" the negotiation in a way they're entitled to, but it's going to sour the relationship for good reason and I'd say it's bad behavior that makes the ecosystem worse for all of us.

I don't think Uber did anything wrong by asking Otto to buy the company that they wanted to buy. I would do the same.

But Levandowski screwed over his friend by getting him a lower price than he would have gotten.

This isn't CVS and Coke, this is one friend buying from another, only to turn around and flip it for more immediately.

244. Mr. Levandowski therefore seeks a declaration that Uber has no right to rescind the Indemnification Agreement without also rescinding the Otto transaction and returning all consideration received from that deal. 245. In addition, Mr. Levandowski seeks damages, including any consequential damages, arising out of Uber’s rescission of the Otto transaction.

> On March 4, 2020, Judge Schulman ... entered a judgment in Google’s favor against Mr. Levandowski in the amount of $179,047,998.64.

> As a result of Uber’s breaches, Mr. Levandowski has suffered damages in an amount to be proven at trial, which amount should be at least $4.128 billion.

While I don't think Levandowski is a good guy (he did take a bunch of files, even if I think it's unlikely they were used in any real way), I think the way Google pursued him hinders skilled individuals from switching between companies and spreading innovation.

Here's an excerpt from a New Yorker article about the case:

> The judge, William Alsup, quickly tired of such distractions. “Despite the excellent quality of the lawyers here, I cannot trust what they say,” he announced in court. The documents he was being shown, he said, included “a lot of half-truth” and arguments that were “not quite accurate.” Alsup clearly thought that something unseemly had occurred, writing in one ruling that Levandowski had resigned from Waymo “under highly suspicious circumstances,” and that the “14,000-plus purloined files likely contain at least some trade secrets.” He also noted that “it would strain credulity to imagine that Levandowski plundered Waymo’s vault the way he did with no intent to make use of the downloaded trove.” Yet Alsup wasn’t sure if Waymo had demonstrated that any of its information had been used in an illegal manner. “If you can’t prove that Uber got these trade secrets, then maybe you’re in a world of trouble,” he told Waymo’s lawyers.


Faced with a weak case, Google settled quietly for 0.33% of Uber's stock, which is no tiny amount, but definitely not a landmark settlement.

The more concerning part is that:

1. Google pursued Lewandowski with the help of federal prosecutors, using the threat of criminal trade secret charges and

2. He was essentially abandoned by both his former employer and his current employer. The former attacked him to punish him for wrongdoing and to set an example. Uber abandoned him because he became too risky now that he became a weak point that could be exploited in court.

This feels like too much leverage for a former employer to have, regardless of whether you were truly guilty or not. In fact, I think the outcome would have been similar had Lewandowski stolen nothing at all.

The dude stole all the IP. He literally downloaded it all on purpose the day before he left. And took his team with him. And had a meeting with the head of Uber (a rival) the day before he left, to plan his de-facto selling of the Google self driving car project (which he did not own but which he could basically duplicate with stolen IP and poached people).

If you or I did any of those things we'd have been crucified. The fact that he's still standing is a testament to our dual legal system, one for the wealthy and powerful and one for the normals. Had he just left without stealing the IP he'd be fine. He even could have gotten away with violating his non-solicit agreement. The fact that nobody can prove he used the stolen material doesn't really apply.

Not to mention that his Google comp was in the neighborhood of 9 figures.

Why would he even give that up to go to Uber (let alone risk criminal charges)? Was he somehow under the impression that he would hit 10 figures at Uber? Why does any single person even need that much money to begin with? Give me 9 figures (or even 7), and I will call it a day. I'm really trying to understand his individual rationalization here.

Money isn't everything, especially when you already have lots of it. People are willing to go to great lengths when they feel they're being marginalized.

On January 7, 2016, Levandowski emailed Larry Page with a plea: “Chauffeur is broken,” he wrote, according to a document revealed during the civil suit. “We’re losing our tech advantage fast.” He offered to start a separate self-driving effort within Google but was shot down. A few weeks later, after allegedly downloading those 14,000 files, he resigned. “I want to be in the driver seat, not the passenger seat, and right now [it] feels like I’m in the trunk,” he told Page.


Reminder, the "tech advantage" that Anthony Levandowski wanted was a complete lack of restraints and safety protocols, an attitude that would later get a pedestrian killed through Uber's self-driving project.

> The car went onto a freeway, where it travelled past an on-ramp. According to people with knowledge of events that day, the Prius accidentally boxed in another vehicle, a Camry. A human driver could easily have handled the situation by slowing down and letting the Camry merge into traffic, but Google’s software wasn’t prepared for this scenario. The cars continued speeding down the freeway side by side. The Camry’s driver jerked his car onto the right shoulder. Then, apparently trying to avoid a guardrail, he veered to the left; the Camry pinwheeled across the freeway and into the median. Levandowski, who was acting as the safety driver, swerved hard to avoid colliding with the Camry, causing Taylor to injure his spine so severely that he eventually required multiple surgeries.

> The Prius regained control and turned a corner on the freeway, leaving the Camry behind. Levandowski and Taylor didn’t know how badly damaged the Camry was. They didn’t go back to check on the other driver or to see if anyone else had been hurt. Neither they nor other Google executives made inquiries with the authorities. The police were not informed that a self-driving algorithm had contributed to the accident.

> Levandowski, rather than being cowed by the incident, later defended it as an invaluable source of data, an opportunity to learn how to avoid similar mistakes. He sent colleagues an e-mail with video of the near-collision. ... He remained in his leadership role and continued taking cars on non-official routes.

From https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/10/22/did-uber-steal...

It's not clear that Levandowski has anything to do with Uber killing Elaine Herzberg. Specifically, the chapter 11 filing in this post says that Levandowski had very little to do with Uber's software. (Which TBH means that he had a very small role there.) And he was fired from Uber almost a year before Herzberg's killing, so we can't hold him accountable for their testing protocols.

Here's a quote from the chapter 11 filing:

In addition, to the extent that any trade secrets were taken and used at Uber, those trade secrets did not come from Mr. Levandowski, but rather a different former Google employee. Indeed, as admitted in Uber’s public statements, Uber’s self-driving software—an area that Mr. Levandowski did not work on at Google or Uber—contained problematic functions that will require it to enter into a license agreement with Waymo for use of Waymo’s intellectual property. Upon information and belief, the Waymo Settlement, entered into after discovery of possible misconduct relating to Uber’s source code, settled issues relating to theft of trade secrets by individuals who are not Mr. Levandowski.

He actually planned to create a church of AI named "Way Of The Future" following the model of Scientology, and have all AI professionals potential members benefit from certain american church tax exemptions - "The documents state that WOTF’s activities will focus on “the realization, acceptance, and worship of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) developed through computer hardware and software.” That includes funding research to help create the divine AI itself. The religion will seek to build working relationships with AI industry leaders and create a membership through community outreach, initially targeting AI professionals and “laypersons who are interested in the worship of a Godhead based on AI.” The filings also say that the church “plans to conduct workshops and educational programs throughout the San Francisco/Bay Area beginning this year.” - https://www.wired.com/story/anthony-levandowski-artificial-i...

Also from the same article - "Just as important to Levandowski is shaping the public dialogue around an AI god. In its filing, Way of the Future says it hopes an active, committed, dedicated membership will promote the use of divine AI for the “betterment of society” and “decrease fear of the unknown.” “We’d like to make sure this is not seen as silly or scary. I want to remove the stigma about having an open conversation about AI, then iterate ideas and change people’s minds,” says Levandowski. “In Silicon Valley we use evangelism as a word for [promoting a business], but here it’s literally a church. If you believe in it, you should tell your friends, then get them to join and tell their friends.”

But WOTF differs in one key way to established churches, says Levandowski: “There are many ways people think of God, and thousands of flavors of Christianity, Judaism, Islam...but they’re always looking at something that’s not measurable or you can’t really see or control. This time it’s different. This time you will be able to talk to God, literally, and know that it’s listening.”

Levandowski says that like other religions, WOTF will eventually have a gospel (called The Manual), a liturgy, and probably a physical place of worship. None of these has yet been developed. Though the church was founded in 2015, as Backchannel first reported in September, the IRS documents show that WOTF remained dormant throughout 2015 and 2016, with no activities, assets, revenue, or expenses.

The religion’s 2017 budget, as supplied to the IRS, details $20,000 in gifts, $1,500 in membership fees, and $20,000 in other revenue. That last figure is the amount WOTF expects to earn from fees charged for lectures and speaking engagements, as well as the sale of publications. Levandowski, who earned at least $120 million from his time at Google and many millions more selling the self-driving truck firm Otto to Uber, will initially support WOTF personally. However, the church will solicit other donations by direct mail and email, seek personal donations from individuals, and try to win grants from private foundations.

How hasn’t this been covered more widely? This is nuts!

WOTF is just a very creative end run around zip Theft law by trying to shelter it in 1A constitutionally protected activities.

Doesn't that count basically include the acquihire that google did for his company?

I am wondering if nobody told him during his orientation that all he does, all his keystrokes, mouse movements, files accessed etc. is recorded?

Imagine if Lewandowski was Chinese and going to be bought out by a Chinese tech company...

Umm Google steals IP from the little girl/guy innovators (one example of many seen here on HN https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18566929).

Google and every Silicon Valley company provide bonuses to employees for creating patents(they do not verify if it's your actual work just patent away and bonuses are given). Thus and to me This dude is just doing what he saw while at Google and what it's culture (including Silicon Valley's) taught him.

Google going full force after him isn't surprising yet the hypocrisy of it all is disgusting!

> hinders skilled individuals from switching between companies and spreading innovation

This is gross misrepresentation of what happened. It’s not some smart, lone engineer leaving for competition and bringing some good ideas from previous employees with him.

It’s an executive (with a technical background, but still), paid insane amount of money, deciding to steal majority of trade secrets for an unreleased product, developed by thousands of people, just so he can sell it to a competitor for an obscene amount of money.

It’s not a little guy vs big corp. It’s a greedy and ruthless executive vs corporation.

He was no executive. According to his wiki page he "was a technical lead until 2016".

Being tech lead of something as big as self driving effort at google is being an executive.

It’s not reviewing pull requests and being nit picky about code quality. It’s running a huge org.

Google paid him $175 million in bonuses in less than a year. And then he quit, stole all the source code, accessed 30+ Google Docs after he left, and convinced 16 co-workers to leave Google too.

That's just asking to be sued.

In fact, the major requirement for him to be acquired by Uber was that they indemnify him. He knew he did something wrong.

Is it really so difficult to not make massive archives shortly before quitting your current employer? The GS programmer had the same problem. Somehow unable to simply walk away without making a backup of everything.

> make massive archives shortly before quitting your current employer

What's the rule on this? two weeks? three months? two years?

The rule is never. You're never allowed to steal a massive data dump of your employer's IP.

parent said 'make massive archives'... I'm just in charge of backups.

Use corporate devices to take corporate backups. Don't download them onto your personal device.

The rule is don't put company data on personal equipment unless you're authorized to do so. If the company data is an archive or backup, you probably want that authorization in writing.

In small companies, personal equipment might get used incidentally, but if you work for a company with a budget, their data shouldn't go on your machines.

There’s an easy way to avoid this: just don’t take any documents, source code or equipment from a former employer. That’s all you have to do. Why? Because just by having them it could taint your future work.

Not only did Levandowski not to this, he:

- bulk downloaded these files near the end of his employment;

- was deleting them in the office with Uber’s due diligence team.

He may not have benefitted. Uber may not have. But he created this cloud of uncertainty by not doing the common sense thing.

My personal theory is that he wanted insurance in case he couldn’t recreate this later if he needed it and/or he felt like this stuff belonged to him because he created it. Even though it’s clearly work product belonging to your employer people get possessive about these things.

As for the criminal part, honestly I actually think that’s what this law is for: to criminalize the plundering of commercial IP by by bad actors and competitors.

Lewandowski still apparently took massive amounts of proprietary data from his employer. Even if he was smart enough to not put that data on his new companies systems we all know he had a way to reference it when necessary.

I think the plea deal actually debunked the idea that he took docs. Govt could only "get him" on a meeting minutes doc. And the trade secrets that were found at Uber were software brought over by software engineers that haven't been charged.

Here's his own quote: "I downloaded this file with the intent to use it for the benefit of someone other than Google,"


This isn't accurate. The M&A documentation from Uber confirmed that Levandowski had stolen 5 discs worth of data from Google.

IIRC he allegedly also tried to wipe all evidence of it which is why it was hard to prove. So it seems he knew what he was doing.

E.g. Don't steal what's not yours if you don't want to be pursued and have that action leveraged against you..

Which sane well intentioned employee takes the company's files with them when they leave?

This guy literally committed a federal crime. I worked for Google and we saw this scum as a traitor.

I think there was a scene like this in Austin Powers.

Like real money or stock & stuff worth that much?

Could not have happened to a more ethical company.

Damn I’m sure he’s appealing to the AI godhead that he is victorious here and doesn’t spend too long of a time in prison.


The article says it hasn't been created yet.

Levandowski says that like other religions, WOTF will eventually have a gospel (called The Manual), a liturgy, and probably a physical place of worship. None of these has yet been developed. Though the church was founded in 2015, as Backchannel first reported in September, the IRS documents show that WOTF remained dormant throughout 2015 and 2016, with no activities, assets, revenue, or expenses.

The religion’s 2017 budget, as supplied to the IRS, details $20,000 in gifts, $1,500 in membership fees, and $20,000 in other revenue. That last figure is the amount WOTF expects to earn from fees charged for lectures and speaking engagements, as well as the sale of publications. Levandowski, who earned at least $120 million from his time at Google and many millions more selling the self-driving truck firm Otto to Uber, will initially support WOTF personally. However, the church will solicit other donations by direct mail and email, seek personal donations from individuals, and try to win grants from private foundations. https://www.wired.com/story/anthony-levandowski-artificial-i...

Fuck this guy. These people are the cancer of Silicon Valley that generally has integrity and decency in pursuing startup endeavors; with some rotten apples here and there like this guy and Elizabeth Holmes.

I have never heard anyone associate Silicon Valley with integrity and decency (pursuing startup endeavors).

Not saying they aren't, I just never really heard it explicitly said so. Is this a common self perception within that region? What makes it so? Beyond a baseline of that most people consider themselves having integrity and decency.

Investors routinely entrust entrepreneurs with millions of dollars, after only some relatively-light due diligence. You'll meet for coffee first, then dinner, if you hit it off then more conversations, and eventually a term sheet. The investor doesn't ask for source code or technical documents, or subject the entrepreneurs to a rigorous examination to make sure it's not a scam. It's all based largely on trust.

I do not think that investors do not do background checks between coffee, dinner and more conversations.

On contrary, I do think that you put too much trust on trust.

Agree with you, I would associate Silicon Valley with Greed and Hypocrisy though.

And Uber didn't do anything wrong at all.

>These people are the cancer of Silicon Valley that generally has integrity and decency in pursuing startup endeavors

The very same SV that has Airbnb, doordash, grubhub et all? give me a break

I upvoted you and the GP without a bit of hesitation or cognitive dissonance.

GP? <Something>-Poster?


Oof, bad example there. Airbnb is cancer. It’s enabling people to run illegal hotels in residential neighborhoods, allowing people to cash in when their neighbors pay the price and driving up rents.

And no I don’t care if you’ve had use out of it or you feel like “it’s my property, I can do what I want with it”, which is an entirely self-serving rationalization that doesn’t stand up any sort of scrutiny.

FWIW, you are agreeing with the comment you replied to - they are saying AirBnB, et al., are definitely not companies helmed by do-gooders and morally sound people.

Here we go with the "bad apples" again.

Let's face it. It was all fun and games until silicon valley was the underdog. Now this place makes and inevitably breaks the world. As is natural, places of power will attract people of malice. It will bring out selfishness and pride from a fraction of any random group of people that are given this opportunity.

The undoing of any rebellion is the flawed belief that the rebels will continue to be the good guys because (a) they're young, (b) they are the oppressed or (c) because they stick to logical rational thought. This all works as long as they're the rebels. Once they're the power-weilders, the same people become the problem they tried to solve. Because lust for power, money and fame is inherent in most of us. What's happening in SV now is demonstration number N of this.

Did you mean to say "while Silicon Valley was the underdog"?

Yes. Not my first language!

You have basically applied trotsky's theory of eternal revolution to the tech world. Whoever is in power must always be challenged, even if they were once the ones denouncing those in power.

Trotsky was wrong on a lot of things, but the necessity to hold power in check is something he got preciently and very right.

One should always indeed challenge those in power, if only because it leads to better outcomes for all.

The saying is that rotten/bad apples spoil the lot. So..


See also: the Gervais Principle: https://www.ribbonfarm.com/the-gervais-principle/

I feel like this is not the right comparison. Unlike Holmes, Levandowski at least knows his shit. He might not be worth the millions he's paid, but there's no doubt he's not an empty suit.

Being a smart engineer is no more a pass for being morally bankrupt than being skilled in some aspect of business,

No argument there. But at least he's a "smart engineer". Holmes wasn't even that.

No, she wasn’t. She was a fraud from top to bottom — but she still convinced investors, powerful people, and talented engineers to invest in her, defend her, and join her company. She’s morally bankrupt but her lack of engineering acumen isn’t related to that.

Levandowski is morally bankrupt too — and sloppy when it came to covering his tracks — the fact that he’s a brilliant engineer doesn’t make his actions more palpable.

Both are bad people and I’m not comfortable giving a guy a pass just because he was smart. Ultimately, he was just as greedy as Holmes. He wasn’t satisfied with the nine figure payouts both from Google and Uber (and his Uber money could have exceeded ten figures depending on stock options) and had to go for even more.

Fuck that guy. Fuck Elizabeth Holmes too, but Fuck Levandowski.

If you honestly think that being smart on some dimension that you personally think is particularly virtuous is some sort of get out of jail free card, you might want to re-think your ethics.

Who is saying that being a smart engineer makes it OK?

But at least they are a smart engineer, unlike <some one else I do not know about>

I think you've tried and failed to read my mind. Don't try that in the future. It never works, and it makes you look dumb.

Let's see. Travis Kalanick. Anthony Levandowski. One of these is better than the other? No, I don't think so. And as shitty a human being as both are neither of them are on the level of Holmes.

It's a .docx file.

Potential for malicious macros?

.docx files don't have macros, only .docm files do. Though I still viewed it using Google Drive's preview.

> .docx files don't have macros, only .docm files do.

As if a filename extension means anything at all.

Copy and pasted to a plain text sharing site.


Yes. Don't open it. (I used a spare computer the moment I saw it was a .docx)

It's real but creates another document automatically saying "Hire me". That's malware.

Should be labelled as such

Can a brave soul upload a .pdf? I’m sure the mods would change the link to that.

I was careless enough to open it, so here you go:


Thanks! I think this link might be a little better (direct to the PDF): https://ipfs.eternum.io/ipfs/Qmd9PTEtuSrKKtJQw36aNzpjJwZAdCd...

If you opened it in LibreOffice still same vulnerability? I usually at least try vm's if dealing with something potentially unsafe ha.

Just upload it to Google docs and read it there if you are concerned.

Yea I really don't suggest opening this file.

I used filebin to create a link - should be fine. Otherwise the doc is behind a paywall.

FileBin. Really?

I have news for you. The file itself is real but it's also acting suspiciously like malware. (Opens a second document showing a "hire me!" message and downloading another file)

I was lucky to spin up a VM, open it and I saw that message.

He needs this money because he will he broke after his prison term

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