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Anthony Levandowski ordered to pay $179 million to Google

Kirsten Korosec
Anthony Levandowski at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI at UC Berkeley on April 18, 2019. (Photo: TechCrunch)

Anthony Levandowski, the engineer and autonomous vehicle startup founder who was at the center of a trade secrets lawsuit between Uber and Waymo, has been ordered to pay $179 million to end a contract dispute over his departure from Google.

Updated with comment from Levandowski's lawyer.

Reuters was the first to report the court order.

An arbitration panel ruled in December that Levandowski and Lior Ron had engaged in unfair competition and breached their contract with Google when they left the company to start a rival autonomous vehicle company focused on trucking, called Otto. Uber acquired Otto in 2017. A San Francisco County court confirmed Wednesday the panel's decision.

Ron settled last month with Google for $9.7 million. However, Levandowski, had disputed the ruling. The San Francisco County Superior Court denied his petition today, granting Google's petition to hold Levandowski to the arbitration agreement under which he was liable.

Levandowski himself may not have to pay the money personally, as this sort of liability may fall to his employer depending on his contract or other legal quirks. However, Levandowski personally filed March 4 for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, stating that the presumptive $179 million debt quite exceeds his assets, which he estimates at somewhere between $50 million and $100 million.

“This arbitration was not about trade secrets but about employees leaving Google for new opportunities and an engineer being used as a pawn by two tech giants," Levandowski's lawyer, Neel Chatterjee of Goodwin Procter said in an emailed statement. "Google fought tooth and nail to take back every penny paid to Anthony for his multibillion dollar contributions and now Uber is refusing to indemnify Anthony despite explicitly agreeing to do so.  Anthony had no choice but to file for bankruptcy to protect his rights as he pursues the relief he is legally entitled to.”

Devin Coldewey contributed to this story.