Ex-Tesla engineer accused of theft fights to clear his name publicly

By Malathi Nyak | Bloomberg

A former Tesla engineer says that after the company pulled his reputation “in the mud” for allegedly stealing trade secrets, it is now trying to prevent him from publicly clearing his name.

Alexander Yatskov was accused in May of taking sensitive proprietary information about Tesla’s supercomputer technology when he left his job. He is now resisting the company’s move to push the dispute to private arbitration, saying he wants to challenge the “derogatory allegations” in open court.

Tesla has lost its initial application in court for an emergency injunction against Yatskov, but says it is about arbitration under the terms of its standard employment contract.

The world’s most valuable automaker has been accused in the past of using closed arbitration proceedings to keep embarrassing allegations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment at its flagship California plant out of the public eye.

A federal judge in San Francisco is scheduled to hear arguments Thursday about whether to suspend the Yatskoff court case while the arbitration continues.

In this case, Tesla went on the offensive in a May 6 complaint alleging that Yatskoff downloaded “extremely valuable” trade secrets about his supercomputer onto his personal computer and attempted to cover up the theft before he left the company.

While the complaint said Tesla employees spent thousands of hours building the supercomputer to handle massive amounts of data and solve challenging engineering problems, including driver autonomy, CEO Elon Musk told investors on a January earnings call that “Project Dojo” isn’t guaranteed to succeed. .

“We’re not saying for sure, the dojo will work,” Musk said. “We think it will.”

Tesla’s lawyers told the judge in a July report that Yatskov’s labor agreement contains a mandatory arbitration clause, but allows either party to go to court to seek protection from the “immediate threat” of technology theft prior to arbitration.

The company’s lawyers said that after the lawsuit was filed, the former engineer handed over the PC specifically requested by Tesla for a third-party forensic examination and agreed not to disclose any proprietary materials.

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