Even a self-driving startup truck company needs someone at the helm of the corporate steering wheel who is going to behave with some propriety and morales.
The problem for self drive truck start up, TuSimple, is that its CEO has been sacked after an internal investigation found improper dealings and possible tech transfer to a Chinese firm led by TuSimple’s now-departed co-founder.
Former CEO Xiaodi Hou was sacked by the board after his they discovered his improper actions.
The San Diego-based self drive truck company has appointed its operations chief, Ersin Yumer, as interim CEO and president while its board starts the search for a permanent successor. Hou was also the company’s chief technology officer.
Shares of TuSimple fell sharply following the news, closing down over 45 per cent earlier this week.
TuSimple said in a regulatory filing that based on an investigation by its board of directors, it believes some of its employees spent paid hours in 2021 working for Hydron, a Chinese startup developing autonomous hydrogen-powered trucks. The employees apparently shared confidential information with Hydron before a nondisclosure agreement was signed, TuSimple said.
The board’s investigation began in July and are ongoing, the company said.
In a statement posted to LinkedIn on Monday, Hou said that he was removed “without cause” and that he is confident he will be “vindicated” in time.
“I have been completely transparent in both my professional and personal life and I fully cooperated with the Board because I have nothing to hide,” Hou wrote.
“I want to be clear that I fundamentally deny any suggestions of wrongdoing.”
The company’s relationship to Hydron is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. Investigators are examining whether TuSimple’s leadership failed to make required disclosures about its transactions with Hydron and whether the dealings harmed TuSimple investors, according to the report.
Hou co-founded TuSimple in 2015 and became its CEO in March this year. Shortly after taking the top job, he told media that he wanted to be an “evangelist” for the potential of autonomous trucking.
“Who is the best person to lead this company? It’s me! Because I am a relentless decision-making machine who is backed by the technical background,” Hou said in an interview with CNBC on 30 March .
Hydron was founded in 2021 by Mo Chen, another co-founder of TuSimple who had previously served as its executive chairman. Hydron initially announced plans to build electric trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells in North America, but its operations have so far been mostly in China.
TuSimple will report its third-quarter results on next week after the market closes but has delayed its conference call to the day after.