Uber Managers Sue Former Employee for Defamation

(CN) – Four Uber security managers are suing former Uber employee Richard Jacobs for his claims they stole trade secrets and spied on competitors in a $10 million defamation lawsuit filed in federal court Friday.

Jacobs submitted a 37-page letter, written by his attorney Clayton Halunen, to Uber’s deputy general counsel Angela Padilla and the Justice Department in May 2017. The letter alleged that Uber’s security staff was spying on individuals from rival corporations.

“This program, formerly known as the Strategic Services Group, under Nick Gicinto, collected intelligence and conducted unauthorized surveillance, including unauthorized recording of private conversations against executives from competitor firms, such as DiDi Chuxing and against its own employees and contractors at the Autonomous Technologies Group in Pittsburgh.”

Gicinto, along with fellow plaintiffs Mathew Henley, Edward Russo and Jacob Nocon, said in the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in California that Jacobs was a failed employee who was angry with the company after he was demoted.

“Jacobs resented the demotion,” the complaint said. “He regularly expressed his dissatisfaction to Henley, Gicinto, and others, and repeatedly asked to be restored to a managerial role. Those requests were rebuffed. His performance did not improve and continued to decline in his new role.”

Although Uber said there was no truth to Jacobs’ claims, it paid him $4.5 million in order to settle legal claims made by him. In February, Uber paid $245 million to settle a lawsuit brought on by competitor Waymo, alleging that Uber stole its self-driving car technology.

The complaint alleges Jacobs lied about company staff stealing trade secrets from other companies.

“Jacobs admitted under oath in open court that his claims about [Uber] stealing trade secrets were false,” the complaint said. “When asked in open court about his claims that [Uber] stole trade secrets, Jacobs confessed that his trade secret claims were ‘hyperbolic.’ When asked whether he stood by his claims that [Uber] stole trade secrets, Jacobs said, ‘No … I don’t stand by that statement.’”

The lawsuit says that allegations Jacobs made about Gicinto secretly recording conversations of competitors’ executives were also false.

“Uber’s executive team authorized surveillance of two competitors’ executives in public locations,” the complaint said. “That surveillance was not conducted by Gicinto—it was performed by others. Gicinto engaged in no recording of private conversations.”

The complaint also refutes claims that Uber’s security team wiretapped mobile phones, saying that they had “neither the capability nor the inclination” to do so.

The plaintiffs are represented by Matthew Umhofer and Ezra Landes of Spertus, Landes and Umhofer in Los Angeles.

 

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