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Kalanick tells court he 'wasn't aware' of Uber report that Levandowski had Google data on disks

Russ Mitchell, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

SAN FRANCISCO -- Greed, cheat codes, bad acts, disappearing messages, memory problems and a mysterious entreaty to "burn the village." Just another day in Silicon Valley's sensational trade-secrets trial.

Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick returned to the witness stand Wednesday in the Waymo-Uber trial in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Waymo is the driverless car arm of Google's Alphabet. In its lawsuit, Waymo says engineer Anthony Levandowski downloaded gigabytes of proprietary documents and took them with him when he left to run Uber's driverless-car operation in January 2017.

Kalanick, retaking the stand after testifying Tuesday, defended an indemnity clause that Uber signed with Levandowski. The clause would protect Levandowski from financial penalties related to "bad acts" at Waymo, including trade secret theft.

Waymo attorney Charles Verhoeven asked Kalanick if he'd ever seen such a clause in other indemnity agreements. "No," Kalanick said.

But Kalanick said he'd never read the agreement. Nor had he read the deal papers he signed that paid Levandowski and partners $592 million for a driverless truck company, Otto. Kalanick said he had no time: "I sign hundreds of documents."

He was also asked about a due diligence report Uber had commissioned before the deal, in which Levandowski admitted he had possessed Google proprietary information on computer disks and in his closet.

Kalanick not only hadn't read the report, he told the jury, but "I wasn't aware of it."

"You're the CEO," Verhoeven said. (He was Uber's chief executive at the time.)

Google is seeking $1.8 billion in damages from Uber. The trial comes after a year of scandals for Uber, including accusations of sexual harassment and the cover-up of a cyberattack. Management upheaval included Kalanick's forced ouster as chief executive by the Uber board and replacement by Dara Khosrowshahi.

The documents Levandowski is accused of taking with him when he left Waymo for Uber include trade secrets covering a laser-based sensor technology called lidar.

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