Tesla this week sent an email to employees warning about the impact of on-going press leaks.
The email reminded employees that each of them signed confidentiality agreements, warning the company would take action against those it felt were in violation, including “termination of employment, claims for damages, and even criminal charges.”
It appears that Tesla’s security team sent the email after reporters broke numerous unfavorable stories about the company over the past few weeks. These stories noted a failure to secure an exemption on tariffs for its Chinese-made components, a number of production glitches at its Fremont plant, a damaged relationship with battery cell supplier (and Gigafactory partner) Panasonic, long waits for Tesla service and repair, and Musk’s on-going feud with short sellers on Twitter.
According to a CNBC report, the email was shared with the publication and verified with multiple current employees, all of which requested anonymity. Here’s the email, in its entirety:
Subj. Please Read – Confidentiality Reminder
If you read the news, you know that there is an intense amount of public interest in anything related to Tesla. As a result of our success, we will continue to see an interest from people who will do anything to see us fail. This includes people who are actively seeking proprietary information for their own gain, targeting Tesla employees through personal networks or on social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. These solicitations are not only potentially damaging to our company, they can also be illegal, putting you and your colleagues/friends at risk for termination or even the possibility of criminal charges.
As an employee and a shareholder, each of us has a responsibility to safeguard all information and technology we use and generate every day.
When anyone joins Tesla, they agree they “will hold in strictest confidence and will not disclose, use, lecture upon or publish” any of Tesla’s confidential and proprietary information. Tesla will take action against those who improperly leak proprietary business information or violate the non-disclosure obligations to which we all agreed. This includes termination of employment, claims for damages, and even criminal charges. If you would like another copy of your Confidentiality Agreement, please send an email to your HR partner or email [HR email address redacted].
If you receive a solicitation for information via social media do not respond and please forward it directly to [Security email address redacted].
The security team will determine whether any additional action is necessary.
We recognize that not everyone who leaks information may be doing so intentionally or with an intent to harm the company. To that point, we ask that you assume what you are working on is sensitive, and do not share details of your work with friends, family, or people outside the organization.
Contact [Security email address redacted] if you think you or your team may benefit from training or a more complete understanding of how to protect our intellectual property and confidential business information.
If you’re unsure about what constitutes unacceptable behavior, illegal disclosures or theft of intellectual property, here are some recent examples to illustrate inappropriate conduct and the potential consequences:
* This month, an employee posted the dial-in information of an internal meeting on social media. This employee was identified and terminated the following day.
* A felony charge was filed last month against a former employee who exfiltrated confidential business information from the Tesla domain to his personal account and threatened to disclose confidential company information.
* A former employee uploaded Tesla intellectual property to a personal iCloud account and left the company for a competitor. Tesla filed a lawsuit and is suing him for stealing trade secrets.
* Tesla filed a lawsuit against former employees and a competitor for stealing proprietary information and trade secrets to help the competitor leapfrog past years of work needed to develop and run its own warehousing, logistics, and inventory control operations.
* In January an employee was identified for sharing confidential business information on Twitter, including production numbers, with journalists. The employee was terminated for violating their NDA and Tesla’s Communications policy.
It’s every employee’s responsibility to honor and sustain our culture of progress and sharing, while still abiding by company policy. To do otherwise would be a disservice to your colleagues, our mission, and the hard work you do every day. Thank you for doing your part to advance Tesla’s mission by raising awareness and protecting your valuable work.
For Tesla, the leaks overshadow some of its recent contributions to the electric vehicle space, including the progress made on automated manufacturing and the solar roof at its Sparks, Nevada battery plant and Musk’s promise during a recent investor call that Tesla will be a driverless car company worth $500 billion in the near future.
Currently, Tesla’s market cap sits at $42 billion, making this a rather lofty proclamation.
The leaks also come at a bad time for Musk and Tesla. The company is currently looking to raise cash. Reports indicate that Tesla seeks to raise $650 million in equity and $1.35 billion in convertible bonds. Corporate filings indicate that the company intends to use the cash as a sort of buffer, in case demand weakens or we enter a recession.
It’s worth noting that Tesla lost $702.1 million last quarter, so a buffer doesn’t seem like a bad idea.