Several DeLorean executives are being sued by their former employer Karma Automotive for pursuing an outside venture while being told to find investors for electric vehicle development. Karma filed a lawsuit last month against DeLorean CEO Joost de Vries, Chief Operating Officer Alan Yuan, Chief Marketing Officer Troy Beetz, and Vice President Neilo Harris, who all maintained they were allowed to establish a new company as needed.
Karma claims in the suit, filed in August, that it told de Vries and Yuan to look for outside investors when they were employed at the company. When developing the “Project 88” — an internal name for the project — electric vehicle, Karma did not have the necessary funding to move forward. de Vries and Yuan had their contracts slightly tweaked in January 2021, according to San Antonio Express-News, which allowed the two executives to “pursue investors outside Karma Automotive” and “set up a new business structure as needed.”
Karma began exploring a venture in 2020 that would see the DeLorean brand reignited under Karma’s EV tech. Karma claims de Vries, Yuan, Beetz, and Harris went and secretly formed the venture on their own and did so without expressed permission.
DeLorean reiterated this in a filing, stating that Karma’s contract revisions “modified any agreements it had with the Individual Defendants expressly to allow them to pursue Project 88 as a separate business, including to engage with suppliers and investors and to establish an independent business structure.”
Karma accuses the four of creating the new DeLorean without any permission or knowledge on Karma’s behalf. They also accuse them of telling potential investors that the project would not include Karma. Yuan’s revised contract states the vehicle in development would “utilize Karma’s vehicle platform, engineering, and manufacturing services.”
Additionally, the suit accuses both de Vries and Beetz of emailing battery data, vehicle dimensions, and other data to personal email accounts while still employed by Karma.
DeLorean specified in a filing that Karma did not list which trade secrets were explicitly taken that contributed to the development of the Alpha5, which was unveiled during the 2022 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August. However, Karma did list examples of intellectual property in the suit, as well as consumer information, vehicle specifications, and accounting information.
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