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Engineer Says Uber Owes Him $180 Million for Run-In With Google

Joel Rosenblatt

(Bloomberg) -- A star Silicon Valley engineer who defected from Google to Uber Technologies Inc. -- only to be fired, tagged as the villain in a trade-secret theft dispute and driven into bankruptcy -- says the ride-sharing company owes him more than $180 million for travails and lost time.Anthony Levandowski, hailed by both companies as a prodigy of driverless car technology, contends Uber didn’t keep its promise to cover his legal bills when it aggressively recruited him in 2016. Google later accused Levandowski of poaching its engineers in violation of his contract and clawed back a $120 million bonus it had paid him, plus about $60 million in interest and attorneys fees.In his arbitration demand against Uber, Levandowski says he was warned by none other than Larry Page that he’d face “negative consequences” if he left to compete with Google. But he was reassured by Uber’s agreement to indemnify him against Google’s anticipated retribution, and Uber paid for his defense for almost three years.Until, that is, Google won. Levandowski says that in April 2018, days before the final hearing in Google’s arbitration, Uber told him it wanted to be repaid.

“After it was clear that Mr. Levandowski could be liable for a substantial judgment, Uber reneged on its deal and refused to pay the expenses, including any potential judgment, as required by the indemnification agreement,” according to the engineer’s filing. Levandowski says Uber’s position is that it was “fraudulently induced” to indemnify him.

“Uber insisted on controlling his defense as part of its duty to indemnify him. Then, when Uber didn’t like the outcome, it suddenly changed its mind,” Levandowski’s lawyer, Neel Chatterjee, said in an email. “What Uber did is wrong, and Anthony has to protect his rights as a result.”

As bad as the outcome of the Google arbitration was, it only got worse for Levandowski. Last year, he was criminally indicted for stealing trade secrets from Google. He agreed last month to plead guilty to one count and faces as long as 30 months in prison when he’s sentenced in August. Also in March, the engineer filed for bankruptcy.

Uber, standing by a regulatory disclosure it previously made about Google’s arbitration, said in a statement that whether Uber is ultimately responsible indemnifying Levandowski “is subject to a dispute” between him and the company.

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