By on March 13, 2019

A recent report from Bloomberg frames Tesla CEO Elon Musk as quite the jerk in relation to his actions toward a former employee. This worker is the whistleblower who, last year, shared internal documents that suggested the company’s Nevada Gigafactory was blowing through raw materials at an alarming rate. Martin Tripp offered up information showing Tesla wasted $150 million in materials and accused the automaker of pursuing unsafe production procedures during its push to increase Model 3 volume.

Tripp, who tried briefly to maintain his anonymity, said he was concerned that Tesla was shipping cars that were potentially dangerous to consumers. However, Tesla quickly responded by suggesting the claims against it were ridiculous and the amount of waste cited in the report was an overstatement.

“As is expected with any new manufacturing process, we had high scrap rates earlier in the Model 3 ramp. This is something we planned for and is a normal part of a production ramp,” Tesla told Business Insider in 2018.

Following an intense Twitter rant from Elon Musk, the story died down. But the corporate task force charged with finding out who leaked the information would eventually lead to even more ridiculous claims.   

Sean Gouthro, former security manager at the Gigafactory, ended up filing his own report with the Securities and Exchange Commission in January alleging that Tesla investigators hacked Tripp’s phone, followed him around, and misled police about the surveillance data that had been acquired. Odd, considering Tripp’s true identity was uncovered almost immediately — as he was the only person with access to the manufacturing details relevant to the story. Tesla ended up firing him on June 19th of 2018, with Musk releasing an email claiming an employee had tried to “sabotage to our operations” as part of a broader conspiracy involving short sellers and oil companies.

This was followed by Tripp’s personal details being published all over the internet. Shaken, Tripp sent an email to Musk saying “you have what’s coming to you for the lies you have told to the public and investors.” The CEO responded by calling him a “horrible human being” and suggested threats would only leave Tripp in a worse position. Later that day, the company claimed it received a warning of an imminent mass shooting and identified Tripp as a disgruntled ex-employee, though the event never took place.

Gouthro’s account to Bloomberg casts a shadow upon the shooting threat and the company’s handling of Tripp overall. Tripp was interrogated by Tesla’s investigators, who Musk reportedly hired personally (despite allegations that they took part in spying on rivals while working for Uber). While Tripp admitted to informing the press, he denied Musk’s accusation that he had accepted bribes from the media. He eventually moved out of the country to avoid any further interaction with the company.

While Gouthro’s recollection of the incident frames Tesla as a vicious actor that attempted to take Tripp down by publicly defaming him, it wasn’t all he learned through the investigation. Corporate investigators allegedly installed devices that “monitored everyone’s private communications” within the factory. Gouthro also claimed he was informed by a corporate lawyer that Tesla had spied on at least one union meeting under Musk’s direct orders and cited a lot of day-to-day weirdness inside the factory.

From Bloomberg:

Not long after Gouthro started in January 2018, he discovered that many employees, some of whom were living out of their car in the corners of the industrial park, were using cocaine and meth in the bathrooms. Others were having sex in parts of the factory that were still under construction.

Gouthro says the scanners guards used to check badges were unreliable, so they’d wave in anyone with a piece of paper that looked legitimate. Local scrap yards called him to report thieves were trying to sell obscure electric vehicle parts.

While we would imagine there’s a fair bit of this going on at other auto factories across the globe, it’s not a pretty picture. On Monday, Tesla said Gouthro’s allegations are “untrue and sensationalized,” and that he was fired due to “poor performance, including repeated failure to demonstrate and understand best practices in the security industry.”

[Image: Tesla Motors]

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34 Comments on “Sex, Drugs, and Electric Cars: Report Claims Elon Musk Tried to ‘Destroy’ Whistleblower, Spied on Union Meetings...”


  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Where there’s smoke, there’s a Tesla.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      It’s more likely a gas car:
      https://cleantechnica.com/2018/12/31/gas-cars-have-much-higher-risk-of-fire-than-electric-cars-cleantechnica

      Musk claims that EVs have an 11:1 fore safety advantage. You always have to take that guy with a grain of salt but, even if he’s only half right, your chances are better in an EV.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    – Digging up dirt on detractors (a la GM/Nader)
    – Threats by disgruntled employees (pick your example)
    – Drug use on premises (you pick)

    It looks like Tesla has become a real car company.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    What a $#¡[show.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      That’s the Silicon Valley way.

      Once the $#!tshow stops, it’s a “solved problem” which can only be worked on by “B people” and “C people”. At least that’s what they tell themselves. [Eye roll]

      They also deride businesses started for.the purpose of making a modest profit as a “lifestyle business” — meaning you want your business to support your lifestyle, instead of the other way around. Tesla is not a “lifestyle business”.

  • avatar
    jatz

    Great daytime TV.

  • avatar
    EGSE

    Some of the alleged transgressions need further definition. Engineering development articles and often prototype or early pilot run units are eventually written off and to some that’s “scrap”. In actuality they may be used for fitment checking, software development, compliance testing etc but will not be sold and some could go to a real scrapyard. The rest might have an “off the books” long and useful life in the company. Nothing to see here except an accounting irregularity which is normal in the world of manufacturing.

    It’s typical for people to forage through junkyards for usable items….nothing nefarious there. Hobbyists including yours truly have done it. If it does run afoul of laws it’s not on Tesla’s watch, though I’d be surprised if Tesla wasn’t very concerned about it happening.

    When you’re on company premises the expectation of privacy is limited. They can read your e-mails and monitor phone traffic for security purposes. Drug use also isn’t that rare and companies have a strong interest to squelch it for a lot of reasons. Getting nookie on the clock is an occasional occupational hazard.

    Hacking personal phones and public defamation is another matter. And having this drama in the press damages the company reputation and that’s a self-inflicted wound that has to stop.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “Some of the alleged transgressions need further definition. Engineering development articles and often prototype or early pilot run units are eventually written off and to some that’s “scrap”. ”

      yes, it’s not totally clear. My question is if “scrap yards” means scrap metal recyclers, or if it means “junk” yards which sell used car parts. If it’s the former, meh. if it’s the latter, that could be trouble. Parts to be scrapped are supposed to be rendered non-functional before disposition so they don’t get re-sold into the field. few jobs ago we had a few dozen radios to dispose of; we had to both render them non-functional (we took a large nail gun and skewered them through all major components) and document each one by part and serial #.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed on all points.

      In addition, IIRC Tripp and Gouthro were both very short-time employees, which gives less weight to their claims, and makes me question their integrity in taking the jobs they were hired to do.

  • avatar

    Another reality show in mainstream media starred by tweeter user. I did not expect unions to sabotage green tech. Ha-ha how funny.

  • avatar

    Please pass on to Tripp and Gouthro I’m buying a Standard Range Model 3. I’ve already put the $2.5k down payment, arranged a bank loan, and will trade-in our Prius Prime. I’m also moving my stock holdings from 50/50, gold mining and TSLA, to 40/60.

    What this means is Tripp and Gouthro have no effect on my decision to spend ~$22k on our new Model 3. Please publish more nonsense as I’m not only a Tesla investor but also soon to be Tesla customer. There is no gas car that comes close to what I’m getting.

  • avatar

    Please pass on to Tripp and Gouthro I’m buying a Standard Range Model 3.

    I’ve already put the $2.5k down payment, arranged a bank loan, and will trade-in our Prius Prime. I’m also moving my stock holdings from 50/50, gold mining and TSLA, to 40/60.

    What this means is Tripp and Gouthro have had no effect on my decision to spend ~$22k on our new Model 3.

    Please publish more Tesla nonsense as I’m not only an investor but also soon to be Tesla customer. There is no gas car that comes close to what I’m getting for $22k.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    So Tesla already has adversarial relationships between management and labor, drug use and sex in the factory, an established reputation for lousy quality, and rolling job losses? It sounds like UAW organization would be redundant.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I say this with all due respect to my fellow B&B members..Most of you folks have no idea what really goes on behind closed doors, nooks, crannies, loading docks in any manufacturing facility. The non union transplants are no different . The Honda, and Toyota folks just practice a bit more discretion.

    A little nooky on the side ? Maybe a couple of tokes on a fatty? A line or two in the washroom stall?….Its going on today, and it will be going on to night.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Yep, and not just auto mfrs, either. This stuff went on at several companies I’ve worked for. I’m always a little surprised by it, though.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Where the heck do you work? The wildest stuff I’ve ever seen or heard of in my offices have been when someone takes 2 bear claws on Doughnut Day.

        • 0 avatar
          EGSE

          C’mon ajla, live a little.

          A senior manager at a defense contractor was walked in on while getting “lip service”. He became a workingmans hero.

          Another did the same thing but he was in a very sensitive job. When word got out the company fired him, but only because they couldn’t sweep it under the rug.

          Lots of drug use on premises.

          These are the funny or lesser ones. Like SCE a lot of it didn’t sit well with me including some really serious criminal behavior.

          Most of the Tesla stuff is a weak joke by comparison.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            lol. I think I’ll just save that for the weekends. It’s got me this far and that’s what I have a house for.

            I don’t feel so bad about spending any “on clock” time screwing around on TTAC or cars.com anymore though.

      • 0 avatar
        N8iveVA

        I once had a boss that stayed after hours doing hits of nitrous in his office. Passed out and woke up in blood with a broken nose from hitting the desk. Crazy stuff happens everywhere.

      • 0 avatar
        WildcatMatt

        At the TV station I worked at, word got around to be careful when opening closed doors, because you never knew what was happening on the other side.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      @Mikey – Anywhere there’s humans, sex and drugs are a given. No I’m more interested in the shenanigans happening on the assembly side. Bent frames used, carpet/wires installed on 1/4 inch of water in the cab, grinders taken to steel body panels not fitting correctly, instead of discarding pieces/cabs, mounting holes not lining up so components are installed with force, etc.

      It started with phone interview with a guy (allegedly) currently working at a USA GM Silverado/Sierra assembly plant, showing (prohibited) pictures of standing water inside the assembly area (not watertight) where production is going on

      He claims this is the reason he will only own Ford pickups and wants to warn other pickup buyers, while remaining anonymous, but the problems potentially happening down the road are consistent with GM pickup customer complaints. He sound totally believable, but what to you think?

      youtube.com/watch?v=-p_7OephMOM


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