The Latest of Tesla’s Troubles: A Rogue Agent

June 25, 2018 - 4 minutes read

Tesla and one of its most famous co-founders, Elon Musk, are in the news at least once a day (or hour). Whether it’s reports of factory conditions or a revelation of its failure to ramp up manufacturing of more Model 3s, Tesla isn’t looking like a saint right now.

But the company, headquartered in San Carlos, outside of San Francisco, recently had a different reason to be in the headlines — it tracked down the employee that allegedly tried to sabotage Tesla by leaking false information.

Detrimentally Disruptive

Elon emailed the entire company last week, saying an unnamed employee made “direct code changes to the Tesla Manufacturing Operating System (MOS) under false usernames” and exported “large amounts of highly sensitive Tesla data to unknown third parties.” The same employee was also apparently spreading slander to news publications that painted Tesla’s practices in an undesirable, inaccurate light.

The employee in question allegedly acted against Tesla because he didn’t receive a promotion; in fact, the employee was moved to another role eight months after starting as a process technician in October 2017 at the Nevada Gigafactory. Part of the reason for the move was that the employee was becoming “disruptive and combative with his colleagues.”

Musk wrote in his email that, “In light of these actions, not promoting him was definitely the right move.” Before joining the company, the employee was required to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), which is normal for his initial position as a technician, where he dealt with a lot of sensitive information.

Musk pointed out that Tesla doesn’t know who was involved; other than the employee, were there other Tesla workers acting against the company? Or maybe it was a planned operation by Wall Street, oil and gas companies, or gas/diesel car companies?

Suspicions Confirmed

In his email, Musk tried to give the employee a small benefit of the doubt. “Most of the time, when there is theft of goods, leaking of confidential information, dereliction of duty or outright sabotage, the reason really is something simple like wanting to get back at someone within the company or at the company as a whole,” Musk wrote. “Occasionally, it is much more serious.”

Immediately following Musk’s email, it only took a few days for the company to launch a lawsuit against the employee, who they outed as Martin Tripp. Besides the misinformation and rumors he spread, Tripp is also being sued for hacking the company’s MOS and sending dozens of photos, files, and a video of manufacturing systems to external groups.

Tripp also allegedly developed a program that frequently exported “Tesla’s data off its network and into the hands of third parties,” operating on “three separate computer systems of other individuals at Tesla so that the data would be exported even after he left the company and so that those individuals would be falsely implicated as guilty parties.”

Only Part of the Picture

With Tripp’s story going public, Tesla has become quieter. The complete truth about this story may never come out, but what’s been revealed serves as a strong lesson for employees to learn about the consequences of breaking their NDAs.

Still, there are so many questions left unanswered. Who could stand to benefit from this widespread misinformation? Are there other parties involved? Was this really a planned scheme by Wall Street or a major oil and gas company? What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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