Whistleblower Claim: Tesla Spied on Employee’s Computers, Cellphones

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveils the new Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010. The new Tesla factory is the former NUMMI plant. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

A new whistleblower alleges Telsa failed t0 disclose unauthorized spying activities on its employees’ electronic devices by a notorious team of former Uber security agents, or to acknowledge theft of materials from the company’s factory.

Stuart Meissner, an attorney for former Tesla security staffer Karl Hansen, reportedly filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) against Tesla, alleging the embattled electric vehicle company “failed to disclose theft of materials from a factory,” and did not acknowledge an “unauthorized wiretapping and hacking of Tesla employee cellphones and computers,” according to New York Times business correspondent Matthew Goldstein.

Business Insider provides additional details:

“Several” employees in Tesla’s security department — including the company’s head of security — were previously a part of a similar team at Uber that allegedly stole data from rivals, hacked into their computer systems, and recorded their private conversations, according to a former employee of the electric-vehicle company who filed a whistleblower tip earlier this month with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

At Tesla, those employees were part of a group that spied on employees’ personal cell-phone communications and hid from shareholders a theft of raw materials and a drug trafficking ring at the company’s battery factory in Nevada, Karl Hansen, a former member of Tesla’s security team, alleged in the tip, according to a statement put out Thursday by his lawyer.

“The security personnel accused of engaging in these tactics at Uber were hired by Tesla this year despite the revelation of a purported investigation by the US Attorney’s Office in San Francisco … [into] the actions related to the Uber security team,” Meissner said in a statement.

The development follows reports that the SEC subpoenaed Tesla after Chairman and CEO Elon Musk claimed on August 7 that he secured funding to take the company private at $420 per share. SEC investigators in San Francisco, who recently expanded their inquiry into Tesla’s announcement about “manufacturing goals and sales targets,” are now working to determine if Musk’s tweets about going private were indeed “truthful.”

Following reports Tesla had been issued a subpoena, shares of the car company fell 3.3 percent to $336.40.

On Tuesday, Tesla’s board of directors said they had formed a special committee to analyze proposals to take the company off the public market.  “The special committee has not yet received a formal proposal from Mr. Musk regarding any Going Private Transaction nor has it reached any conclusion as to the advisability or feasibility of such a transaction,” the committee’s statement read.

The isn’t the only legal hot water the erratic billionaire has found himself in lately.

Tesla was sued twice on Friday in a San Francisco-area federal court for allegedly waging a campaign against investors attempting to short the company’s stock. “It is clear that Defendant Musk Tweeted materially false and misleading information regarding the Going Private Transaction to exact personal revenge and ‘squeeze-out’ the short-sellers who had purportedly been badgering him for months,” the complaint reads.

One of the plaintiffs, Kalman Isaacs, says Musk falsely claimed funding to take Tesla had been secured to “completely decimate” short-sellers betting against the company.

On Monday, Musk wrote in a blog entry that his infamous “funding secured,” tweet was in reference to a meeting with investors of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which the South Africa-native left believing would provide the funding if needed. “I left the July 31st meeting with no question that a deal with the Saudi sovereign fund could be closed, and that it was just a matter of getting the process moving,” wrote Musk. “This is why I referred to ‘funding secured’ in the August 7th announcement.”



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