Tesla’s lawsuit against former employee Martin Tripp has taken an unusual turn.
After publishing a large number of documents and videos online over the last week, including many under a confidentiality order in the case, Tripp has now fired his lawyers and will represent himself moving forward. Notably, this action coincided with the revelation that a TSLA short seller, The Funicular Fund, LP (dba Cable Car Capital LLC), was financing Tripp’s legal defense.
The case has been ongoing since 2018 wherein Tesla filed a complaint alleging that Tripp, a former process technician at Gigafactory 1 in Nevada, had stolen several gigabytes of confidential trade secret information and transferred it to third parties. Tripp denies wrongdoing and claims to be a whistleblower reporting evidence of securities fraud and concerns over safety during early Model 3 manufacturing. He has further filed a counterclaim against Tesla in the case, alleging defamation.
Following a report published by Bloomberg revealing Car Capital’s financial role in the case, Tripp took to Twitter to both double down and explain his actions.
“Why should it be a secret as to who is financing my litigation? …My Attys were certainly secretive, and made it clear that I NOT say a word about it if questioned…,” he wrote. “To be clear…I did NOT accept money to fund my litigation from a ‘short seller.’ I accepted litigation financing from an investor… They DID tell me they short tesla stock (and other stocks if I am not mistaken). But, I don’t give a shit about shorting, whatever the hell it is. I care about, you guessed it…the truth, and being able to fight for it.”
In the documents Tripp published via Google Drive, several letters and two documents titled “Litigation Funding Agreement” revealed that Cable Car Capital had invested $150,000 into Tripp’s defense and another $125,000 was later sought after the first round was near exhaustion. Tesla responded immediately to the revelation and filed an Emergency Motion on Monday demanding Tripp be ordered to stop publishing the information and stop ‘harassing’ the carmaker’s counsel, among other things.
In addition to publishing confidential information, Tripp had also posted a copy of an email from Tesla’s counsel, Jeanine Zalduendo, to his attorneys demanding the cessation of his actions. “No Jeanine, I don’t think I will…,” he wrote on Twitter with an image of the correspondence attached.
The judge in the case, formally Tesla Inc. v. Tripp and assigned number 18-cv-00296 in USDC District of Nevada (Reno), held an emergency court hearing via teleconference the same day of Tesla’s emergency filing. Tripp was ordered to stop publishing and discussing the confidential information and a hearing was scheduled to determine whether he would also be held in contempt of court and face sanctions, according to Bloomberg.
On Tuesday, Tripp’s lawyer filed a Motion to Withdraw as Counsel with Consent, formally ending the firm’s relationship with the defendant. “On August 7, 2020, undersigned counsel received notice via an e-mail sent from Mr. Tripp’s e-mail address that he wished to terminate the attorney-client relationship and represent himself,” the document stated. The former Tesla employee also posted several videos on YouTube detailing his actions and decision.
Throughout his numerous Twitter discussion threads on the matter in the hours since learning about Tesla’s Emergency Motion, Tripp has continued to discuss the original confidential information in depth. Part of the communications has detailed how difficult it was to obtain legal funding to counter the lawsuit originally. Tripp has also set up a GoFundMe account to assist with both legal expenses and his cost of living in Hungary, where he currently resides.
Tesla’s Emergency Motion can be read below.