Tesla is involved in a number of lawsuits these days, in some cases as the plaintiff and in others as the defendant. As the defendant, the electric vehicle company has been sued by several groups of customers for fraudulent or misleading activities. As the plaintiff, Tesla is suing multiple groups of former employees for stealing company secrets.
In the newest case of Tesla suing its former employees, the company is bringing a suit against two ex-employees who allegedly leaked confidential information to German media outlet Handelsblatt, as Teslarati reported.
The leak, which has since been dubbed the “Tesla Files,” (not to be confused with a 2018 documentary) apparently consisted of 100 gigabytes of information that included the confidential personal information (such as Social Security numbers) of more than 75,000 Tesla employees, according to Business Insider. However, since Handelsblatt declined to publish the leaked info, instead opting to inform Tesla and report broadly, the specifics of the information that the leakers were trying to make public were not released.
Although Tesla’s statement on the matter focuses on its employees’ personal information, it seems somewhat unlikely that the leakers exposed themselves to great legal risk to only turn over Social Security numbers to a German newspaper.
If the leakers were attempting to expose some sort of corporate deceptiveness — which Tesla has been accused of many times, including very recently — and only exposed the employee information incidentally, it is possible that they could defend themselves as whistleblowers. But lacking any more specifics about the leak, we will all just have to wait and see how the case plays out.
In another case of Tesla retaliating against former employees for stealing secrets, the EV company has also sued rival EV company Rivian, along with several ex-employees who allegedly left Tesla for Rivian and took proprietary information along with them.
In that case, the ex-employees should not be considered whistleblowers, as they are accused of giving information to a rival company instead of a media outlet. However, Tesla still faced criticism for appearing to go against its stated mission to “save the planet” by “open sourcing” (i.e., making public) its EV patents.
“What’s the point of open sourcing your patents if you’re going to blame employees for stealing technology when they want to jump ship to work for a better forward looking company,” wrote one commenter on an Electrek article about the Rivian lawsuit.
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