According to an astonishing report from Bloomberg, electronic car manufacturer Tesla has found itself caught in a web of leaks, intimidation, and manipulation at Gigafactory 1, located near Reno, Nevada. Relying on reports from former security officers and an electronics technician, Bloomberg paints Tesla CEO Elon Musk as willing to go beyond ethical and legal limits to stifle leakers.
The report tells the story of technician Martin Tripp and security officer Sean Gouthro, whose fates became intertwined after a story in Business Insider published on June 4, 2018. Musk has earned headline after headline about increasing productivity and efficiency at his various companies but according to the story, “internal documents reviewed by Business Insider show that the company expects that as much as 40 percent of the raw materials” used by the company for batteries and cars needed to be scrapped or reworked by employees before being sent to Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, and converted into Model 3s. The story, which called the waste, “jaw-dropping,” cited an anonymous source.
The story outraged Musk, according to Bloomberg who turned to Gouthro, an ex-Marine who had previously worked security at Facebook.
Companies are known for cracking down hard on leakers. But the methods the company took were shocking, even to Gouthro, who in the article describes Tesla as significantly less professional than Facebook. According to the article:
Investigators, he [Gouthro] claims, hacked into Tripp’s phone, had him followed, and misled police about the surveillance. Gouthro says that Tripp didn’t sabotage Tesla or hack anything and that Musk knew this and sought to damage his reputation by spreading misinformation.
These attempts to damage Tripp’s reputation extended, Gouthro says, to calling in a fake report that Tripp was going to attack Gigafactory 1 in a planned mass shooting. Tesla spun news out of the story, from Musk quotes to a press conference the next day announcing the plant’s safety. According to Bloomberg, the company asked Sheriff Gerald Antinoro to issue a press release “hyping” the non-existent threat. When Antinoro declined, the company began discussing the event with media anyway.
Gouthro also claims that the company spied on potential union meetings, actively spread misinformation about Tripp to ruin his life beyond the mass shooting allegation, and “installed a device at the factory that monitored everyone’s private communications” in order to find the leaker. Tesla strongly disavowed all of Gouthro’s claims, saying they are “are untrue and sensationalized.” You can read them in full at Bloomberg.
Originally posted on Popular Mechanics