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Tesla sues former employee for 'sharing trade secrets'

Hannah Boland
Elon Musk said the 'actions of a few bad apples will not stop Tesla from reaching its goal' - Reuters

Tesla has filed a lawsuit against a former employee, claiming he hacked into the electric car maker's accounts and shared trade secrets with third parties.

In the lawsuit, filed in Las Vegas, Tesla alleges a former technician at its Nevada Gigafactory, Martin Tripp, passed on information including photographs and videos of its systems, to others after he was reassigned due to poor job performance. 

Attorneys for Tesla claimed that "within a few months of Tripp joining Tesla, his managers identified Tripp as having problems with job performance and at times being disruptive and combative with his colleagues". They said he was assigned to a new role in the middle of May and "expressed anger that he was reassigned". 

According to the lawsuit, Mr Tripp left Tesla last week after being confronted with evidence against him, having worked at the company since last October. 

Tesla claimed it had "only begun to understand the full scope of Tripp's illegal activity, but he has thus far admitted to writing software that hacked Tesla's manufacturing operating system and to transferring several gigabytes of Tesla's data to outside entities". 

History of Tesla

Attorneys called his actions "willful and malicious" and said: "Although Tesla's investigation is ongoing, it has already suffered significant and continuing damages as a result of Tripp's misconduct, which it seeks to recover through this action."

No details were given as to representatives for Mr Tripp in the lawsuit, and a lawyer for him could not immediately be reached. 

It comes just days after Elon Musk sent a company-wide email accusing an employee of “quite extensive and damaging sabotage”, prompting an in-depth investigation into the matter.

However, when asked if Mr Tripp's case had been the sabotage referred to, Mr Musk said: "There is more, but the actions of a few bad apples will not stop Tesla from reaching its goals. With 40,000 people, the worst 1 in 1000 will have issues. That’s still ~40 people."

Issues with staff will put further strain on Tesla, as it battles to stay on target with its production, having pushed back goals repeatedly last year.

Tesla is aiming to make 5,000 Model 3 cars per week by the end of this month, and has signalled it looks likely to meet this goal. It had initially been expecting to meet this target by the end of last year, however, and issues with scale-up have hampered its efforts.