Elon Musk sent an email to Tesla staff on Sunday night, warning of "damaging sabotage" by a vindictive employee.
Musk was scant on details, but alleged the employee made "direct code changes" to the Tesla Manufacturing Operating System using false usernames. He claimed the worker also sent highly sensitive data to "unknown third parties." Tesla has not released the man's name.
As for motive, Musk alleged the saboteur confessed to acting out after not being promoted. Earlier this month, Tesla announced that it would lay off 9 percent of its staff as part of a restructuring effort.
Tesla declined to comment on the matter.
"We need to figure out if he was acting alone or with others at Tesla and if he was working with any outside organizations," Musk wrote.
The CEO cautioned staff about "organizations that want Tesla to die." Wall Street short-sellers, oil and gas companies, and other competitors. "Please be extremely vigilant," he said.
In an another paragraph, Musk seemingly vilified whistleblowers—saying they are Tesla employees with a grudge.
"Most of the time, when there is theft of goods, leaking of confidential information…the reason really is something simple like wanting to get back at someone within the company or at the company as a whole," he wrote.
Tesla has not been immune to whistleblowing, and moved to restrict former employees from exposing safety issues. (In his email, Musk said that internal tips are okay, though.) But the leaking of confidential information has informed the public of several alleged Tesla failings—that it knowingly sold defective cars, for example, and that it neglected to report serious injuries in its factories.
Tech companies are notoriously secretive, but Musk is behaving like it's Tesla against the world. He's ranting about "outside forces" and "not super nice" companies—a continuation of his public Twitter meltdown and untethering from reality.
Here is Musk's entire email:
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 [email address removed for privacy] 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,