TuSimple’s co-founder, Xiaodi Hou, resigned from the corporate’s board of administrators final week amid an inner investigation which sought to confirm claims that Hou approached TuSimple staff about leaving the corporate to affix his new enterprise, per an SEC filing.
Sources acquainted with the matter informed TechCrunch a “whistleblower” knowledgeable higher administration about Hou’s solicitations of staff over the previous few months to affix an organization he was beginning. Hou had allegedly been pressuring sure staff to cease working so exhausting, both as a result of they might quickly be part of his new enterprise or as a result of he needed to see the autonomous trucking firm fail with out him, the sources say.
TuSimple started an inner investigation, throughout which it confirmed no less than two staff — high expertise in “excessive tech” groups — had been approached by Hou, however the co-founder resigned from the board earlier than TuSimple may conclude the investigation.
TuSimple has not determined whether or not to maneuver ahead with the investigation, but when it does, will probably be to find out if some other staff had been compromised, in keeping with a supply acquainted with the matter.
Hou didn’t reply to TechCrunch’s requests for remark, however the co-founder may definitely be accused of getting an axe to grind. In November, TuSimple’s board fired Hou from his CEO, president and CTO posts following the board’s discovery that TuSimple had transferred confidential info to Hydron, a hydrogen-powered trucking startup led by TuSimple co-founder and controlling shareholder Mo Chen and backed by Chinese language buyers.
On the time, Hou mentioned he was eliminated “with out trigger,” and known as the board’s processes and conclusions “questionable at finest.”
“Because the details come to mild, I’m assured that my choices as CEO and Chairman, and our imaginative and prescient for TuSimple, shall be vindicated,” Hou mentioned in a LinkedIn post in November.
TuSimple’s board had performed its personal investigation in response to a probe from the Committee on Overseas Funding within the U.S. (CFIUS). CFIUS evaluations overseas investments for nationwide safety considerations and may impose safeguards and advocate that the president block sure investments. The Biden administration is actively working to stop U.S. know-how from advancing China’s navy energy, together with the usage of autonomous automobiles.
That investigation continues to be ongoing, and it has prompted potential felony costs. Final month, representatives who’re a part of the CFIUS evaluation panel urged the Justice Department to think about economic-espionage costs towards Hou and Chen, in addition to present CEO Cheng Lu.
Lu beforehand served as TuSimple’s CEO from September 2020 to March 2022 earlier than he was ousted. He returned to the helm in November. On the identical time, 4 impartial administrators have been faraway from the board, and Chen was appointed govt chairman of the board.
Whereas TuSimple doubtless hopes Hou’s resignation will assist the corporate shut the chapter on nationwide safety investigations, TuSimple has different considerations on its plate. Earlier this month, the corporate received a non-compliance warning from the Nasdaq for failing to file its fourth quarter and full 12 months 2022 monetary ends in time. TuSimple continues to be bringing on a brand new auditor after KPMG resigned as a result of firm’s threat issue, sources say. The corporate hopes to report earnings by Might, which is the deadline the Nasdaq supplied to regain compliance.