August 3, 2018

Question of the Week — Is Tesla fighting a “saboteur” or retaliating against a whistleblower?

By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team

Elon Musk is in the news again. This time, the Tesla CEO, who is known to fiercely defend his companies and himself, has engaged in a public dispute with a former employee who told the Washington Post he saw “some really scary things” during his time at Tesla’s “Gigafactory” battery plant in Nevada. Among other things, the employee, Martin Tripp, claims that Tesla installed dangerously punctured batteries into cars.

In June, Musk sent an email to all company employees claiming there was “a Tesla employee who had conducted quite extensive and damaging sabotage” to the company by “exporting large amounts of highly sensitive Tesla data to unknown third parties.” A few days later, the company sued Tripp, claiming he stole confidential images and video of Tesla manufacturing systems and provided false information about Tesla to journalists. Tripp subsequently admitted to providing materials to Business Insider for a story on waste at the Gigafactory.

Just hours after filing the lawsuit, Tesla claimed to have received an anonymous call from one of Tripp’s friends, claiming Tripp was planning to return to the factory to “shoot the place up.” Police investigated and found no evidence that Tripp ever posed a threat to the factory. The police report notes that Tripp was “visibly shaken and crying” when he spoke to investigators, stating that he feared for his family’s safety after speaking out against Tesla.

But Tripp has also fought back against Tesla and Musk. First, he filed a whistleblower tip with the SEC alleging that Tesla gave investors production figures that were inflated by up to 44% and failed to disclose the installation of unsafe batteries in cars. And this week, Tripp countersued Tesla, claiming the company defamed him in Musk’s all-staff email, in its communications with the press regarding the shooting threat, and in a tweet by Musk insinuating that Tripp was paid to provide information to Business Insider. The lawsuit alleges that Tesla made these statements to discredit Tripp to the public.

What do you think? Is Tesla fighting a “saboteur” or retaliating against a whistleblower?

Is Tesla fighting a "saboteur" or retaliating against a whistleblower?

 

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