Tesla describes the software engineer as a “wilful and malicious” thief who had “deliberate intent to injure Tesla’s business.”
Major electric car manufacturer Tesla is suing a former software engineer employee accused of stealing company files and breaching his contract.
“Within three days of being hired by Tesla, the Defendant brazenly stole thousands of trade secret computer scripts that took Tesla years to develop. Then, he lied about it and tried to delete the evidence of his theft when quickly confronted by Tesla’s security team,” the company said in its complaint.
Tesla says it hired Alex Khatilov as a senior software quality assurance engineer on 28 December 2020 – within days he had transferred 26,000 highly sensitive company files to his personal Dropbox account.
The company says the files contain proprietary software code which it “spent years of engineering time to build.” The software automates a broad range of functions throughout Tesla’s business.
“Much of the manufacturing cycle of Tesla vehicles is managed by these automated processes – from ordering parts to delivering cars,” the company says.
Khatilov said in an interview with the New York Post that he was told to download the files from Tesla’s system because his job would involve working with some of them, but he “unintentionally” moved the folder into his Dropbox.
“I’ve been working for, like, 20 years in this industry, and I know what sensitive documents are about, and I never, ever tried to access any of those, or steal it,” Khatilov said.
Tesla says that their information security personnel detected an unauthorized download and confronted Khatilov.
“After being prompted, he gave Tesla investigators access to view his Dropbox account, where they discovered the Defendant’s claims were outright lies: the Tesla investigators found thousands and thousands of Tesla’s confidential computer scripts in his Dropbox. The defendant then claimed he somehow ‘forgot’ about the thousands of other files he stole (almost certainly another lie),” the carmaker stated.
Tesla Tackling Problems
Tesla has received complaints about quality control and customer service in the past. According to a 2019 survey by research firm Bernstein, Tesla’s service and customer experience was problematic, “with little improvement in most areas and deterioration in several metrics versus our survey results from 2017.” Meanwhile, in the UK, the company has been requested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recall around 158,000 Model S and Model X vehicles.
Despite all this, Tesla announced earlier this month that it managed to achieve another record quarter and another record year in both metrics, meeting its target of 500,000 units.