Waymo sued Uber in February for allegedly stealing its self-driving vehicle technology, but a federal court judge put the trial on hold last month after learning about the existence of a May 5 letter penned by Mr. Jacobs' attorneys as part of a settlement they successfully pursued following his firing weeks earlier.
The document, which was submitted by the United States attorney's office in the northern district of California, does not specify what the agency is investigating, but it is the first public confirmation by the Department of Justice of a federal inquiry into the San Francisco-based ride-hailing company.
Uber settled earlier this year with Mr. Jacobs for $4.5 million, The New York Times reported previously.
Uber also allegedly used human intelligence, including moles at rival firms, which the Uber team dubbed "virtual walk-ins".
In a statement, a Waymo spokesperson told TechCrunch, "Uber improperly withheld the Jacobs Letter, which exposes the extreme lengths it was willing to go both to get a leg up on competition and hide evidence of bad acts".
In a statement, an Uber spokesman said: "While we haven't substantiated all the claims in this letter - and, importantly, any related to Waymo - our new leadership has made clear that going forward we will compete honestly and fairly, on the strength of our ideas and technology". But Jacobs alleges Uber went far beyond typical corporate intelligence gathering by using covert, militaristic-style tactics and engaging in criminal activity.
Pic: Reuters (The letter emerged during Uber's legal battle with Waymo) Uber set up a covert unit tasked with stealing competitors' secrets and engaging in undercover surveillance, a letter published by a USA court on Friday has alleged. "Separate and apart from the letter, Waymo has accumulated significant evidence that Uber is using stolen Waymo trade secrets, including copying aspects of Waymo's LiDAR designs down to the micron, and we look forward to trial".
The letter was made public on Friday in a 19-page opinion after the court determined that Uber should have produced the document for Waymo attorneys. As for who Uber was surveilling, Jacobs claims "politicians, regulators, law enforcement, taxi organizations, and labor unions in, at a minimum, the USA".
He had sent the letter to Uber's in-house counsel with his allegations about possible criminal activity carried out by the special group in May this year, threatening to sue the company.
"We're going to have to put the trial off because if even half of what's in that letter is true it would be a huge injustice to force Waymo to go to trial", Alsup said at a hearing on November 28.
Jacobs' work on the security team was overseen by Uber's former chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, who left the company in November after an incident in which Uber paid hackers $US100,000 ($130,343) to keep a data breach quiet.
-Jacobs writes that his former company bribed foreign government officials, according to the letter.
Matthew Umhofer, an attorney who represents Mat Henley, Nick Gicinto, Jake Nocon and Ed Russo - four Uber employees named in Jacobs' letter - echoed Padilla's testimony. "The competitive information gathering that was done at the explicit request of management was unremarkable and no different than what's done by law-abiding companies across the country and Uber's own competitors".