Ex-Uber engineer seeks bankruptcy after Google tightens grip

SAN FRANCISCO: The self-driving star engineer whose move from Google to Uber triggered one of Silicon Valley’s ugliest trade secret fights filed for bankruptcy on the same day a judge ordered him to pay US$179 million over his defection from the Alphabet Inc unit.

Anthony Levandowski’s filing for Chapter 11 protection comes as he’s fighting to fend off criminal charges that he stole proprietary information from Google.

Levandowski on Wednesday lost his bid to throw out an arbitration award over Google’s claims that the engineer violated an agreement to not poach employees. The award has swelled by US$52 million, due in large part to interest.

“The numbers we’re dealing with here are pretty staggering, which means that the interest that’s running is considerable,” San Francisco Judge Ethan Schulman said at a Monday hearing.

The award has added financial pressure on Levandowski, who hired top-shelf lawyers to defend him against the criminal case brought by federal prosecutors. Levandowski has denied wrongdoing.

Neel Chatterjee, Levandowski’s lawyer handling the Google award, declined to comment.

Miles Ehrlich, the engineer’s lawyer in the criminal case, didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Uber spokesman Matt Kallman declined to comment. Tom Price, a spokesman for Google, didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The civil case is Google v Levandowski, CPF-20-516982, California Superior Court (San Francisco). The criminal case is USA v Levandowski, 19-cr-00377, US District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).