Uber's former CEO and several senior executives were aware of evidence that all but confirmed the theft of trade secrets from Waymo, the autonomous vehicle developer owned by Google.
That is according to Reuters, reporting on the latest in the court case between Google and Uber. The court heard that Uber's bosses had seen a letter about stolen trade secrets, but that this evidence had been withheld.
US District Judge William Alsup suggested that employees could face criminal charges as a result. He ordered prosecutors to look-in to the allegation.
Speaking to Uber officials during the hearing, the judge said: "On the surface it looks like you covered this up. It seems like there are so many bad things that Uber has done in this case. Usually it's more divided."
Uber has been researching autonomous vehicle technology for some time. It has been accused by Google of stealing information from Waymo when a key executive left the firm, only later to come and work for Uber.
Google-owned Waymo believes that Uber gained access to confidential information detailing its autonomous car designs.
The case is just the latest in a string of difficulties faced by Dara Khosrowshahi, who was only drafted in as CEO of troubled Uber in August.
Officially, Uber has downplayed these claims, saying its teams are unaware of the incident. These claims come as the company recently finalised a billion-dollar investment deal from Japanese venture capital firm SoftBank.
The letter, from former Uber security specialist Richard Jacobs, claims that the company taught employees how to get hold of rivals' trade secrets.
Angela Padilla, an in-house lawyer at the firm, said: "There was no effort to cover this up."
She claims that she has taken "full responsibility" for the situation.
The car-sharing app has also been slammed for its cover-up of a catastrophic 2016 data breach. Andrew Bushby, UK director at Fidelis Cybersecurity, is one of the critics.
"It's unacceptable for companies such as Uber to take more than a year to report a breach, especially when it concerns the personal data of 57 million customers and drivers. Uber has had a very challenging year so far, and this will undoubtedly make it worse," he said.
"Hopefully they, and other organisations will learn a very real lesson from this. Organisations cannot just run away from cyber blackmail, whether it's ransomware, encryption or a disclosure threat.
"Paying the demand and pretending it didn't happen is not acceptable and they are now taking the word of the blackmailer that they have deleted the data and not sold it."
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