Bezos-backed British startup run by ex-Uber executive is sued for fraud, theft

(Reuters) – A former Uber Technologies executive who co-founded a British startup backed by billionaire Jeff Bezos has been sued for allegedly stealing trade secrets from a California shipping and logistics company where he was once a board member.

Vanguard Logistics Services (USA) Inc accused Fraser Robinson of conspiring with another former Uber executive to steal algorithms, data and other intellectual property in 2018 to create their “copycat” London-based company, Beacon Technologies Ltd.

The complaint against Robinson and Beacon was filed on Tuesday with the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

It seeks what Vanguard, which is based in nearby Long Beach, called “significant” compensatory and punitive damages for the alleged fraudulent conduct and the return of what was stolen.

A Beacon spokesman called the lawsuit “an ill-thought out action which is entirely without merit and which has been brought in the wrong jurisdiction. Any claim will be robustly defended.”

Vanguard did not respond to requests for additional comment.

Beacon announced on May 31 it had raised more than $15 million from investors including Bezos and the San Francisco venture capital firm 8VC.

The company’s backers also include Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick and former Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt.

Vanguard said Robinson became interested in shipping and logistics in March 2017 when Uber launched the truck-hailing service Uber Freight.

Robinson had overseen Uber operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa at the time.

Vanguard said Robinson approached its owners, the Mansour family, in late 2017 to work as a consultant and director.

But it said this was a “charade,” and that after winning the family’s trust Robinson began stealing confidential information and working secretly with Dmitri Izmailov, the other former Uber executive, to create Beacon.

Robinson and Beacon are the only defendants in the lawsuit.

Beacon says on its website that its mission is to become a logistics and trade finance leader by making trade simpler, more transparent and reliable.

The case is Vanguard Logistics Services (USA) Inc v. Robinson et al, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, No. 20-09880.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Tom Brown

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