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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Former Google and Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski was charged on Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California on 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: Levandowski’s actions became well known during the now-settled civil case between Uber and Alphabet, but the criminal charges represent a new wrinkle.

“We have always believed competition should be fueled by innovation, and we appreciate the work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI on this case.”
— Waymo spokesperson

Context: Last year, Waymo, which is owned by Google's parent company Alphabet, accused Uber of stealing trade secrets from its self-driving vehicle program, alleging Levandowski illegally downloaded 14,000 confidential documents before leaving Waymo to start his own self-driving car company, Otto. Uber acquired Otto shortly after for a reported $680 million.

  • In a settlement, Waymo received about $244.8 million worth of stock in Uber (a 0.34% stake at a $72 billion valuation) and Uber pledged not to incorporate Waymo's trade secrets into its own technology.

Levandowski's current company, Pronto, said in a statement that Chief Safety Officer Robbie Miller will take over as CEO as a result of today's events.

Go deeper

Biden gets mixed grades on revolving door

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden is getting mixed marks for his reliance on industry insiders to staff his administration during its first 100 days.

Why it matters: Progressives have leaned on the new president to limit the revolving door between industry and government. A new report from the Revolving Door Project praises him on that front but highlights key hires it deems ethically questionable.

Exclusive: Sen. Coons sees new era of bipartisanship on China

Sen. Chris Coons. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Jan. 6 insurrection was a "shock to the system," propelling members of Congress toward the goal of shoring up America's ability to compete with China, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told Axios during an interview Thursday.

Why it matters: Competition between China's authoritarian model and the West's liberal democratic one is likely to define the 21st century. A bipartisan response would help the U.S. present a united front.

By the numbers: States weighing voting changes

Data: Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law; Cartogram: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Georgia is not alone in passing a law adding voting restrictions, but other states are seeing a surge in provisions and proposals that would expand access to the polls, according to data from the Brennan Center for Justice.

Driving the news: Just Wednesday, the New York State Assembly passed a bill to restore voting rights to convicted felons who have been released from prison.