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The data breach is Uber's latest regulatory problem. Photo: Eric Gay / AP

In a second court hearing this week, Uber employees testified that a disgruntled former colleague, Richard Jacobs, attempted to extort money from the company when he sensed he was on the verge of getting fired. Jacobs made explosive allegations of misconduct by Uber in a letter he sent the company in May, which the Justice Department sent to the judge presiding over its dispute with Waymo last week.

The big question: As the presiding judge still wants to know, if Uber didn't find merit in the former employee's allegations that it was crossing legal and ethical lines and even believes he sought to extort a payout, then why did Uber agree to hire him as a consultant and pay him a hefty $4.5 million after the fact?

What's next: The trial has been delayed until early February.

More from today's hearing:

  • Angela Padilla, an in-house lawyer at Uber, testified that the former employee was caught exporting emails and other company documents, presumably as evidence for the claims he planned to make about Uber's practices. When confronted, he sent an email to executives with his claims and resigned.
  • According to Padilla, Uber agreed to settle with Jacobs to "take the air out" of his whistleblowing threats. Uber also decided to disclose the letter to the U.S. government after he threatened to do so.
  • "On the surface it looks like you covered it up," said the judge to Padilla. "To me it does not add up."
  • One employee, Mat Henley, testified that Uber's "non-attributable devices" were laptops, set up with temporary virtual machines (VMs) for certain security analysts to do research safely without their activities being tied to Uber's networks. According to him, this was critical to protect employees overseas when researching violent or criminal groups.
  • Henley testified that Jacobs was demoted because of poor work performance, but the company decided to fire him after he began stealing files.
  • He also admitted that Uber used to conduct surveillance on its competitors, but no longer does.
  • Another employee, Nick Gicinto, testified that he did not discuss Waymo or stealing its trade secrets during his trips to Pittsburgh to meet with the autonomous driving team.
  • "There's very little truth in that document," said Gicinto of Jacobs' letter about Uber's practices, adding that Jacobs never brought up any such concerns during his employment at Uber.

Go deeper

Venezuela suspends talks with opposition after Maduro ally extradited to U.S.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, in June. Photo: Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key ally of Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro was extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. Saturday to face money laundering charges in Florida, Bloomberg first reported.

Why it matters: Venezuela's government called off negotiations with opposition officials that were scheduled for Sunday in Mexico in response to the extradition of Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman and financial fixer for Maduro.

4 hours ago - Health

5 times as many police officers have died from COVID as from guns since pandemic began

Photo: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

COVID-19 is the leading cause of death for police officers even though members of law enforcement were among the first to be eligible to receive the vaccine, CNN reports, citing data from the Officer Down Memorial Page.

Why it matters: Nearly 476 police officers have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic started, compared to the 93 deaths as a result of gunfire in the same time period, according to ODMP and CNN.

Virginia energy giant quietly boosts McAuliffe

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks during a campaign rally on Oct. 15 in Henrico, Virginia. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe has sworn off money from the Richmond company Dominion Energy. But the utility has found more subtle ways to back McAuliffe's gubernatorial bid, records show.

Driving the news: Dominion's political action committee has donated $200,000 to a murky political group called Accountability Virginia PAC, a group with ties to prominent Democrats that's been running ads attacking Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin from the right.