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Citing Employee "Sabotage," Elon Musk Launches Investigation At Tesla

"We need to figure out if he was acting alone or with others at Tesla and if he was working with any outside organizations," the Tesla CEO wrote in an email to employees.

Posted on June 18, 2018, at 6:38 p.m. ET

Brian Snyder / Reuters

Tesla will spend the next week investigating an act of "extensive and damaging sabotage" by an employee, per an email Elon Musk sent to employees that was first obtained by CNBC.

In the email, sent near midnight Sunday, Musk says he "was dismayed to learn" about the disgruntled employee's behavior, which he said "included making direct code changes to the Tesla Manufacturing Operating System under false usernames and exporting large amounts of highly sensitive Tesla data to unknown third parties."

According to the email, the unnamed employee took action against Tesla because he was frustrated about being passed over for promotion. Musk also suggested in the email that the employee may have been motivated by more than simply resentment, and said that an "investigation will continue in depth this week."

"As you know, there are a long list of organizations that want Tesla to die," Musk writes in the email, citing "Wall Street short-sellers" and "oil & gas companies" as examples. Earlier this month, Musk expressed a similar sentiment, saying on Twitter that the fossil fuel industry wants to destroy Tesla and, to that end, funds journalistic investigations through advertisements.

Last week, Musk announced that Tesla would be laying off 9% of its total staff in an effort to maximize profit. The company shared further information about those layoffs via a public WARN notice filed Monday.

The company is currently under considerable pressure to meet its goal of producing 5,000 cars a week, a goal Musk describes in his email as a "super exciting ramp."

Musk asks employees to be "extremely vigilant" about suspicious behavior from their colleagues in the coming weeks.

"This is when outside forces have the strongest motivation to stop us," he wrote.

Tesla declined to comment.

Here's the full text of Musk's email, via CNBC:

To: Everybody

Subject: Some concerning news

June 17, 2018

11:57 p.m.

I was dismayed to learn this weekend about a Tesla employee who had conducted quite extensive and damaging sabotage to our operations. This included making direct code changes to the Tesla Manufacturing Operating System under false usernames and exporting large amounts of highly sensitive Tesla data to unknown third parties.

The full extent of his actions are not yet clear, but what he has admitted to so far is pretty bad. His stated motivation is that he wanted a promotion that he did not receive. In light of these actions, not promoting him was definitely the right move.

However, there may be considerably more to this situation than meets the eye, so the investigation will continue in depth this week. We need to figure out if he was acting alone or with others at Tesla and if he was working with any outside organizations.

As you know, there are a long list of organizations that want Tesla to die. These include Wall Street short-sellers, who have already lost billions of dollars and stand to lose a lot more. Then there are the oil & gas companies, the wealthiest industry in the world — they don't love the idea of Tesla advancing the progress of solar power & electric cars. Don't want to blow your mind, but rumor has it that those companies are sometimes not super nice. Then there are the multitude of big gas/diesel car company competitors. If they're willing to cheat so much about emissions, maybe they're willing to cheat in other ways?

Most of the time, when there is theft of goods, leaking of confidential information, dereliction of duty or outright sabotage, the reason really is something simple like wanting to get back at someone within the company or at the company as a whole. Occasionally, it is much more serious.

Please be extremely vigilant, particularly over the next few weeks as we ramp up the production rate to 5k/week. This is when outside forces have the strongest motivation to stop us.

If you know of, see or suspect anything suspicious, please send a note to emdesk@tesla.com with as much info as possible. This can be done in your name, which will be kept confidential, or completely anonymously.

Looking forward to having a great week with you as we charge up the super exciting ramp to 5000 Model 3 cars per week!

Will follow this up with emails every few days describing the progress and challenges of the Model 3 ramp.

Thanks for working so hard to make Tesla successful,
Elon

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