A whistleblower formerly employed by Tesla has told the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that the company spies on its employees' smartphones, and did not act when it learned that a Mexican drug cartel may be doing business inside one of its factories.
The source, Karl Hansen, filed a complaint with the SEC on the 9 August, accusing Tesla of installing specialised routers at the Gigafactory - a joint venture between Tesla and Panasonic - to capture employees' mobile phone data and conversations.
As well as the surveillance equipment, Hansen also claims that the company failed to act on a written notice from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) about a company employee allegedly selling drugs from the factory on behalf of a Mexican cartel.
Some of his claims are outright false. Others could not be corroborated
Hansen urged Tesla to release that information to the DEA, his attorney Stuart Meissner said, but "Tesla refused to do so and instead advised him that Tesla would hire ‘outside vendors' to further investigate the issue".
Hansen also claims that Tesla did not tell investors about a $37 million theft of copper and other raw materials in the first half of the year. Sheriff Gerald Antinoro of Storey County, where the factory is located, says that Tesla did report two thefts but not disclose what was taken.
Hansen was apparently fired by Tesla after raising the issues internally.
Although the SEC has not yet commented on the case, Tesla has. After an investigation it said in a statement that "some of his claims are outright false. Others could not be corroborated".
Regardless of whether there is any truth to the claims, it has been a rough year for Tesla, and especially for founder Elon Musk.
In an interview with the New York Times this week, Musk described the past year of his professional life as "excruciating", and said that the pressures of the job had meant that he worked through his birthday and almost missed his brother's wedding.
Musk claims that he has been working up to 120 years a week and sleeping at the factory that manufactures the Model 3. He has also been under scrutiny for a recent tweet in which he proposed to take Tesla private, buying out current shareholders at $420 a share.
Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 7, 2018
Musk has been sued by investors over the tweet, who claimed that it was used to put pressure on short-sellers (people who trade stocks on the expectation that their value will fall).
The SEC is also said to be probing the matter.
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