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Tesla whistleblower Martin Tripp ordered to pay $400,000 to settle hacking case

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Tripp has been embroiled in a bitter legal battle with Elon Musk for over two years

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Martin Tripp, the former Tesla worker who has been embroiled in a bitter legal battle with CEO Elon Musk for over two years, was ordered to pay his former employer $400,000 after admitting to leaking confidential information to a reporter.

The settlement is intended to bring an end to one of the more sordid stories at Tesla, in which Tripp, a former process technician, locked horns with the billionaire CEO over allegations that Tesla was wasting a “jaw-dropping” amount of raw material as it ramped up production of the Model 3 sedan.

Musk later accused Tripp of “sabotage” and personally ordered investigators to hack Tripp’s phone and spy on his messages. Tesla even misled local police about a potential mass shooting by Tripp at the company’s Nevada factory.

But in the end, Tripp came out on the losing side. The payment is part of a proposed settlement to a lawsuit filed by Tesla in 2018 alleging that Tripp hacked the electric car company’s system and transferred “gigabytes” of data to third parties. As part of the agreement, Tripp admitted to violating laws related to trade secrets and computer crimes when he told a Business Insider reporter that Tesla was wasting a significant amount of raw materials during production of its Model 3.

Tripp also agreed to pay $25,000 to Tesla for continuing to reveal information about the company, despite being ordered to stop by a judge. Tripp had been publishing a large number of documents and videos online, including many under a confidentiality order in the case. In August, Tripp fired his lawyers and set about representing himself in the case. It was also revealed that a Tesla short seller, The Funicular Fund, was financing Tripp’s legal defense.

Earlier this year, a judge dismissed Tripp’s defamation case against Tesla, in which the former technician accused the company of spreading false rumors about him. After Tripp filed for whistleblower status with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Musk emailed a reporter at The Guardian telling them a tipster had contacted Tesla to say that Tripp might “come back and shoot people,” at the Nevada Gigafactory. The local sheriff determined the threat was not real, but Tesla issued a press release, which was picked up by several media outlets.