Martin Tripp, a former employee of Tesla, has been accused of sabotage in a lawsuit filed in Nevada. The complaint accuses Tripp of leaking information to third parties, hacking the manufacturing OS, and giving false information to the press. According to court documents, Tripp is from Sparks, Nevada. He has not yet spoken publicly about the allegations. Here is what we know so far about Tripp and the accusations against him. This is a developing story.
1. Tripp Joined the Nevada Gigafactory in October 2017 as Process Technician
According to the complaint filed against Martin Tripp, he is a relatively new Tesla employee. He joined the Nevada Gigafactory in October 2017, working as a process technician. You can read the description of a process technician’s job here. According to Tesla’s job description, a process technician does the following:
- Disposition of all non-conformance materials that produced by the manufacturing line.
- Day to day coverage of production line process, including a rapid response to out-of-control processes to minimize cost and maximize productivity.
- Investigate and implement countermeasures to improve process Cpk and product yield.
- Maintain and help develop up-to-date maintenance and calibration procedures and schedules.
- Support Lean Manufacturing and 5S initiatives.
- Work with Engineering and Manufacturing to ensure manufacturing instructions and qualification schedules are always available and current.
- Must be flexible to support both days, swing and an alternative workweek of manufacturing schedules (Some weekends and holiday required depending on production line support).
- Responsible for parts and tools inventory.
- Responsible for writing rework procedure and training associate on new processes
- Manage repairs/troubleshooting exactly to instructed process.
- Manage small projects involving multiple departments and/or outside contractors.
- Manage workload with positive attitude and proactively help co-workers
- Associate’s Degree on Electronic or some technical certificate is a plus.
- Ability to manage workload while contributing to a positive, team-oriented work environment
- 5-8 years’ experience in a manufacturing/industrial environment.
- Skilled at troubleshooting electrical, hydraulic, and pneumatic systems a plus.
- Skilled with the use of a variety of hand and portable tools.
- Detail oriented with strong record-keeping and organizational skills.
- Skilled with common workplace software (MS Word, Excel, Visio, Access, etc).
- Able to read and interpret basic mechanical drawings and electrical schematics.
- Availability for occasional off-hours calls.
When Tripp joined, he agreed not to disclose confidential or proprietary information, which is a typical requirement for many jobs.
2. Musk Said the Employee Was Angry About Not Being Promoted & May Have Tried to Recruit Other Employees
According to Elon Musk, the employee who is accused of committing sabotage was angry about not getting promoted. The complaint goes into more detail about what happened. (You can read the complaint above.) The court records state that within a few months of being hired, Tripp was accused of being disruptive and combative with colleagues and was assigned a new role around the middle of May 2018. He was angry about the reassignment, the lawsuit alleges.
According to the complaint, Tripp admitted to trying to recruit other people within the factory to share confidential information. It’s not known if anyone else was helping.
3. Tripp Is Accused of Hacking the Manufacturing OS to Export Information Even After Leaving the Company, & of Giving False Information to the Media
The complaint claims that Tripp “unlawfully hacked the company’s confidential and trade secret information and transferred that information to third parties.” The suit says that Tripp admitted to writing software to hack the company’s manufacturing OS and transferred several gigabytes of information to outside parties, including dozens of photos and a video of Tesla’s manufacturing systems.
The complaint also states: “Beyond the misconduct to which Tripp admitted, he also wrote computer code to periodically export Tesla’s data off its network and into the hands of third parties. His hacking software was operating on three separate computer systems of other individuals at Tesla so that the data would be exported even after he left the company and so that those individuals would be falsely implicated as guilty parties.”
The complaint continues: “Tripp also made false claims to the media about the information he stole. For example, Tripp claimed that punctured battery cells had been used in certain Model 3 vehicles even though no punctured cells were ever used in vehicles, batteries or otherwise. Tripp also vastly exaggerated the true amount and value of “scrap” material that Tesla generated during the manufacturing process, and falsely claimed that Tesla was delayed in bringing new manufacturing equipment online.”
Tripp told The Washington Post that he did observe punctured batteries at the factory. But Tesla has said those allegations are false.
The complaint says that Tripp’s actions were “willful and malicious” and “done with the deliberate intent to injure Tesla’s business.”
The address for Tripp listed on court records is for a rental apartment in Sparks, Nevada.
4. Tripp Said He Is Actually a Whistleblower & Never Told Anyone To ‘Shoot the Place Up’
Tripp finally spoke publicly, telling Ars Technica that he is actually a whistleblower trying to reveal safety flaws and internal waste. He said he was tasked with “the inventory of the stator line” and that was when he first became concerned. He said: “When the cultural norm is to not care and continue building bad product, there’s something wrong there. Any manufacturer I’ve ever been to (and I’ve been to a lot) would never allow for this. Since Tesla is running on investor money, it made it more concerning. In May it became immediately concerning when I was again tasked with inventory of the battery stuff and found huge discrepancies (100’s of millions of dollars), and then the punctured cells.”
He said he repeatedly reported his concerns before going to the press, but “my manager basically blew me off.”
Tripp also said that he was “trying to warn investors and the public about problems at the electric carmaker,” CNN reported.
Tripp said that he never told a friend that he planned to “shoot the place up.” His statement came in response to a Tesla spokesperson saying that a friend of Tripp’s called them and said he was threatening to shoot up the Nevada factory, CNBC reported.
The Storey County Sheriff’s department visited him and decided there was no credible threat. In a statement, the Sheriff’s Office said:
On 06/20/18 the Storey County Sheriff’s Office received information of a potential threat to the physical security of the Tesla Gigafactory. Deputies responded to investigate the potential threat.
After several hours of investigation deputies were able to determine there was no credible threat. Further investigation into the threat’s origin continues. No additional information concerning the ongoing investigation will be released until it’s [sic] conclusion to protect the investigative process.
The names of all involved parties are being withheld pending the completion of the investigation.
Tripp told Ars Technica that the only thing he said to friends was asking if they thought he really was a hacker.
There’s nothing on social media right now that is verifiably attributable to the Martin Tripp listed in the lawsuit. In fact, the closest we can find is a listing on Google for a profile on LinkedIn that has since been either scrubbed or removed. A screenshot of the Google result appears below.
The search result lists multiple Martin Tripps and points to a LinkedIn profile that is not the Tripp in question. However, the search result does list a “Martin T.” who apparently once had being a Process Technician Lead at Tesla on his profile. A search for a Martin T. on LinkedIn did pull up someone with a technical background, but that LinkedIn profile that does not list anything about Tesla, and archived versions of this LinkedIn page are not available. If this page belongs to the correct Tripp, it would indicate that he was a veteran in the Navy. However, this cannot be confirmed at this time and may belong to a different Tripp entirely.
5. Previous Media Reports that Questioned Tesla Are Now Being Scrutinized
As a result of the lawsuit, some people online are now questioning whether certain media reports were published as a result of information allegedly shared by Tripp. For example, this was pointed out on Twitter.
The question is in reference to a story published on June 4, 2018 by Business Insider. The story states that Business Insider was given internal Tesla documents and an employee who wanted to remain anonymous shared information about the company. The unnamed employee said that hasty manufacturing decisions were made and there were “continuous problems.” The employee went on to say that a misprogrammed robot that handled battery modules “repeatedly punctured through the plastic housing … and into some battery cells,” and some were fixed with adhesive instead of scrapped. The “punctured battery cells” line was specifically cited in the lawsuit as an example of misinformation the lawsuit claims that Tripp shared.
Tripp confirmed with Ars Technica that the information from the Business Insider story did, indeed, come from him.
This is a developing story.