The former Tesla employee who was fired and then sued by the electric vehicle automaker has filed a formal whistleblower tip to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleging the company has misled investors and put its customers at risk.
Martin Tripp has retained Meissner Associates, a whistleblower, securities, investment fraud and employment law firm to represent him before the SEC. Tesla did not respond to questions about the whistleblower tip.
The filing is the latest blow in a bout between Tesla, its CEO Elon Musk and Tripp.
Tesla filed a lawsuit on June 20 against Tripp for $1 million, alleging the man, who worked as a process technician at the massive battery factory near Reno, hacked the company’s confidential and trade secret information and transferred that information to third parties, according to court documents. The lawsuit also claims the employee leaked false information to the media.
A mere 24 hours later a combative email exchange between Musk and Tripp emerged. Tesla also notified police based on a tip to its customer service line that Tripp had allegedly told a friend he was going to attack the company’s Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada. Tripp has denied this and the Storey County Sheriff’s department, which investigated, told TechCrunch they found no credible threat.
Tripp is turning to an attorney with a successful whistleblower track record. The firm obtained a more than $22 million judgment from the SEC on behalf of a Monsanto whistleblower in 2016.
Tripp's whistleblower tip, which was filed July 6, alleges that Tesla knowingly manufactured batteries with punctured holes possibly impacting hundreds of cars on the road; misled the investing public as to the numbers of Model 3s actually being produced each week by as much as 44 percent; and lowered vehicle specifications and systemically used scrap and waste material in vehicles, all so as to meet production quotas, according to a statement from Meissner Associates.
Tesla has said in the past that Tripp's allegations are false and contend that he is not a whistleblower, but someone who hacked and stole confidential information.
Tripp says he has been threatened and harassed in the days since he revealed information about Tesla to the media.
"Getting the truth out has become a nightmare. While we have had to relocate due to threats and harassment, both online and offline, making it difficult to press on, my family and I have also received a ton of support, which keeps us going," Tripp said in a statement. "I hope that, in the end, my fight will make it easier for future whistleblowers to come forward without fear of repercussions like those I have endured."
Meissner will not handle the federal lawsuit that Tesla filed against Tripp. He is currently looking for an attorney to represent him in the case, the firm's managing member Stuart Meissner told TechCrunch.
Meissner, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan and assistant New York state attorney general, said Tesla filed its lawsuit against Tripp and engaged in a PR campaign to defame him in a calculated effort to ruin his reputation and silence him and other potential Tesla whistleblowers from coming forward.