The name Anthony Levandowski will be henceforth known as the insider. He was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) for 33-counts of intellectual property and trade secret theft for taking his former employer’s information on the way out the door. The employer: Google/Waymo.
The autonomous vehicle market is expected to reach more than one trillion dollars in value within our lifetime. Levandowski is recognized as a leader in the research of Light Detecting and Ranging (LiDAR) technology. While employed by Google, he created not one, but two companies which were in the LiDAR space. He sold one of those companies to Uber for over $600 million dollars.
What’s the ballpark figure for the value of that which he allegedly took from Google/Waymo?
The case was settled in February 2018, shortly after the due diligence report which Uber had in its possession became the infamous Exhibit 22, with $245 million being paid to Google/Waymo in Uber stock.
It turned out that Uber’s own due diligence effort uncovered vast quantities of information which belonged to Google/Waymo, which had found its way onto the personal devices of Levandowski and a number of his colleagues who also departed Google/Waymo for greener pastures in hopes of a lucrative payday.
how much Google/Waymo information was purloined?
The 34-page due diligence report prepared by Stroz Friedberg in August 2016 (as part of the acquisition of Levandowski’s company by Uber) identified the following, which were found on the 53 devices and in cloud depositories used by Levandowski and a number of other Google employees who left Google/Waymo to join Levandowski in his endeavor:
- 74,000 relevant images
- 176,000 source code files
- 100,000 email, chat and text messages
Levandowski admitted to the due diligence investigator that he had stored Google’s data on his personal laptop, and emails dating back to 2014. In addition, Levandowski contented that while a Google employee, he would routinely download information to his personal laptop and to his Google Drive.
In a nutshell, they all are alleged to have left with their proverbial briefcases full of Google/Waymo technology.
From the due diligence report on insider Levandowski
A plethora of data was destroyed by Levandowski and allegedly purloined from the Google/Waymo environment as detailed in the due diligence report:
- 12/14/2015- Approximately 24,000 potentially relevant files and folders moved from a desktop folder to the Trash (ES001); 11
- 12/21/2015- DSR/Source Code Example and test report for HDL-64E S2 Laser Power Customer added to personal Dropbox account;
- 12/22/2015- USB device labelled “8GB” erased using MacBook Pro laptop (ES001);
- 1/26/2016- Levandowski’s last day at Google;
- 1/26/2016- USB device labelled “280” erased using MacBook Pro laptop (ES001);
- 2/9/2016- Approximately 20,000 items moved to Trash (ES001);
- 2/10/2016- 160 GB of free space became available on the MacBook Pro laptop (ES001 );
- 2/19/2016- 8 GB SanDisk Cruzer erased using MacBook Pro laptop (ES001);
- 2/26/2016-Text from Rhian Morgan to Levandowski stating, “I’m gonna go get your stuff destroyed this afternoon btw ill send you a bill and a pic/video” (deleted) (ES002);
- 3/1/2016-Text from Levandowski to an unknown recipient stating, “Ok good reminder to delete the iMessages every night” (deleted) (ES002);
- 3/1/2016- Text from Rhian Morgan to Levandowski stating, “i’ve been paying for shredding on my card, since it’s not technically a business expense for OM. LMK if I should expense it or send you a bill instead©” (deleted) (ES002);
- 3/1/2016-Text from Rhian Morgan to Levandowski stating, “Ricardo, the shredder at ShredWorks, has a thing for these baby blues so he only charges me for about half the stuff they shred” (deleted) (ES002);
- 3/8/2016- Last known time the Drobo5 was connected to the MacBook Pro (ES001);
- 3/13/2016- Text from Levandowski to unknown recipient stating, “We’re ready for junk King” (deleted) (ES002); and
- 3/22/2016-Trash emptied (during the interview with Stroz Friedberg) (ES001).
Then a list of items identified as belonging to Google in Levandowski’s possession.
- Pictures of a Google car, such as a Google car dash and Prius components/connections (Exhibit 32);
- Technical drawings and diagrams, such as a figure depicting radar technology, simulations, LIDARrelated diagram, and Google Confidential PBR 0.7 optical cavity drawing (Exhibit 33);
- Patent application for LIDAR (Exhibit 34);
- Videos, such as flashing lasers (Exhibit 35);
- Keynote files showing Google car road test (Exhibit 36);
- Source code “snippets” (Exhibit 37);
- Email messages from Levandowski’s Google email account discussing Chauffeur-related issues, simulation results, and a Calendar entry located in Trash regarding a meeting on March 18, 2016 at Levandowski’s house (Exhibit 38);
- 1/28/2016 email from Levandowski to unknown recipient regarding time to move on from Chauffeur and wanting to be in the driver’s seat (Exhibit 39);
- Images of business cards (est 185) located in a file path with folder named “Chauffeur contacts” (Exhibit 40);
- Chauffeur group email including, the Chauffeur-laser group email discussing testing lasers and Chauffeur-all group email discussing additions to 2081 (Exhibit 41 );
- Presentations and PDF files, including information marked “Google Confidential and Proprietary” titled GBr Assembly Flowchart SOP (Exhibit 42), Chauffeur-LIDAR Simulations (Exhibit 43), “Confidential-do not share” files related to Chauffeur’s business plan and 2014 funding ask (Exhibit 44), and a draft PBR v7 Laser Classification Memo (Exhibit 45); and
- Employee lists (Exhibit 46).
Interestingly, Levandowski pleaded “not-guilty” to this insider theft of trade secrets and intellectual property at his arraignment on August 27.
employee OffBoarding to prevent insiders
We have spoken about the need to have an offboard regime many times, and this case of insider theft serves as yet another reminder.
One must protect information from the entrepreneurial spirit of the wayward insider. Levandowski is alleged to have created companies in parallel with his employment in the identical sector – self-driving cars. How was this not detected by his employer? It is difficult to fathom how Google’s competitive intelligence arm failed to detect Levandowski’s “new company” pop-up into the sector, but apparently that is exactly what happened.
Levandowski’s creation of these companies clearly causes conflict of interest issues, but more egregious is the fact that Google didn’t know what Levandowski had been up to until a design document from Uber sent over to Google was recognized as being remarkably similar to Google/Waymo’s own design.
In other words, Google/Waymo discovered by accident that they were now competing against their own design – the crux of the civil suit against Uber, and the beginning of the unraveling of Levandowski’s insider theft of trade secrets and intellectual property.