Posted by Brendan Finnegan.
Research into driverless cars has boomed over the past few years, which has naturally brought about competition in the market. Two of the major players in this emerging market are Uber and Alphabet, the parent company of Google. Waymo is a subsidiary of Alphabet that works on building technology that will enable cars to be self-driven in the not so distant future. Anthony Levandowski is a prominent engineer who left Waymo to start his own tech firm Otto. This move was not controversial until Uber bought Otto and Levandowski became one of the top engineers in the company.
While working for Waymo, Levandowski had the desire to work out of the office. In order to do this he downloaded blueprints for the systems being created by Waymo. While still at Waymo, no one knew that he did this but once he created Otto, Waymo claimed that he was using their designs to build his company. A Waymo employee recently received an email from a vendor that was meant for Levandowski. The contents of the email, in Waymo’s eyes, made it clear that Otto now owned by Uber was using data that was developed by Waymo.
If business law is followed properly, incidents like this can be easily avoided. Every company has a different protocol on file sharing. Complying with company policy will protect employees from being caught in scandal, especially once one leaves the company. This is especially important if one is going to work for a competitor. However, the burden is not just on the employee. Companies need to assess what information is of utmost importance to their company. Once they identify their most sensitive information the company should make all of their employees who deal with the sensitive information sign non-disclosure agreements, in case their employees part ways, go, and work for a competitor. This will protect the individuals in a company and the corporation itself. The issues between Alphabet and Uber illustrate the need for internal controls when dealing with sensitive material.
Brendan is a finance and management major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2020.