Uber Had a Very Bad Day in Court

Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Uber? More like Oops!-er, because they’ve been goofing up a lot in their legal battle against Alphabet’s Waymo, which contends that Uber stole secrets from them in order to develop self-driving cars. It got worse today when a former Uber employee laid out the different methods he claimed that Uber had for subverting the law.

Richard Jacobs, who previously worked on the ride-share company’s corporate surveillance team, privately told federal prosecutors about the company’s tactics earlier this year and testified about them in court on Tuesday. In addition to the Waymo lawsuit, the government is also investigating Uber’s practices. The strategic services group that Jacobs was a part of, he told the court today, was primarily focused on gaining advantages overseas, according to a recap from Bloomberg. He said he wasn’t aware of any attempts to steal trade secrets from American competitors.

But, he said, “There was legal training around the use of attorney-client privilege markings on written materials and the implementation of encrypted and ephemeral communications intended to destroy communications that might be considered sensitive.”

The trial between Uber and Waymo, which was set to begin tomorrow, is now being delayed. The contents of a letter that Jacobs’s lawyers wrote was almost entirely redacted when mentioned in court documents today, but contained information concerning enough that Judge William Alsup saw fit to delay the trial. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Alsup was “visibly angry.”

Jacobs walked back some of the statements in the document, saying he hadn’t closely read all 37 pages that went to Uber’s attorneys. Still, today’s events cast a shadow even further over Uber’s dubious conduct regarding obfuscation and outright unethical behavior. The trial hasn’t even started, and already the company has lost the benefit of the doubt from the judge running the show.

Uber Had a Very Bad Day in Court