Uber: Bankrupt engineer Levandowski is hiding hundreds of thousands from collectors

Patrick
Enlarge / Anthony Levandowski in 2019.

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg by way of Getty Photographs

Famed self-driving engineer Anthony Levandowski was compelled to declare chapter final 12 months after he misplaced a authorized battle with Google over claims that he stole commerce secrets and techniques on behalf of Uber. Now Uber is objecting to the proposed phrases of his chapter, arguing that he used legally doubtful methods to shelter his wealth from collectors.

Levandowski faces a skeptical chapter decide. “I proceed to view most of the transactions through which Mr. Levandowski engaged instantly previous to the submitting of this chapter case with an extremely jaundiced eye,” stated Choose Hannah Blumenstiel throughout a telephone convention final week.

Levandowski acquired tens of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in compensation from Google in 2015 and 2016 for his work on self-driving expertise. In October 2016, Google initiated an arbitration course of to claw the cash again, arguing that Levandowski had stolen commerce secrets and techniques from Google on his means out the door. Uber alleges that Levandowski then took numerous steps to make it tough for Google, Uber, or different collectors to get their a reimbursement.

Among the many transactions that drew Uber’s ire: Levandowski used a donor-advised fund to funnel $175,172 to Approach of the Future, an AI “church” that Levandowski based in 2017. The church bought an in-depth write-up by our sister publication Wired in 2017. On the time, Levandowski stated he would obtain no wage from Approach of the Future.

The main focus of Uber’s objection is Levandowski’s request that courts protect from collectors $17.2 million in a Roth IRA. Tax regulation restricted Roth IRA contributions to $5,500 per 12 months when Levandowski opened it in 2016—a determine that has since risen to $6,000. So how did he accumulate $17.2 million in 5 years?

In line with Uber, Levandowski deposited $4,326 in money round April 2016 and used the cash to buy 4,326,000 shares of Otto Trucking at a value of 0.1 cents per share. When Uber acquired Otto, these shares grew to become value hundreds of thousands of {dollars}. Uber says Levandowski bought half of them for $11.9 million, protecting the money contained in the IRA. He bought the remainder of the shares to his enterprise associate Robert Miller, in alternate for a $5.3 million promissory be aware.

Retirement accounts are sometimes shielded from collectors in chapter proceedings. However Uber argues that rule should not apply right here as a result of Levandowski violated a number of IRA guidelines when he arrange the account. Tax regulation requires IRA cash for use for arms-length investments. Uber argues that investing in Levandowski’s personal firm would not qualify.

Uber says Levandowski additionally took different steps to protect his belongings from collectors. For instance, in 2017, he purchased a home for his father and stepmother for $949,000. He then “bought” it again to the stepmother for $720,000. Somewhat than paying money, she gave him an unsecured promissory be aware with a balloon fee that comes due in 2048, successfully permitting her to dwell within the residence rent-free for 30 years.

In line with Uber, Levandowski invested $250,000 in an organization based by his fiancée on March 4, 2020, the identical day he filed for chapter.

As well as, Uber says Levandowski loaned greater than $10 million to entities managed by his faculty pal and longtime enterprise associate Randall Miller. He funneled hundreds of thousands extra to his new self-driving startup Pronto.ai.

Uber urged Choose Blumenstiel to not settle for Levandowski’s declare that he wanted the $17.2 million in his IRA to help himself in retirement. Uber identified that Levandowski has greater than $400,000 in additional standard retirement accounts that doubtless might be protected in chapter. Even when his numerous different belongings are stripped away within the chapter course of, the corporate argued, the 40-year-old’s expertise as an engineer and supervisor ought to allow him to make a very good residing over the subsequent 20 years.

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