TuSimple CEO fired for improper ties to Chinese company Hydron
TuSimple, partly owned by UPS, makes self-driving trucks, a technology that could be among the innovations that will help lower longer-term inflation in the transportation sector.
Startup for self-driving trucks Just do has fired its CEO, Xiaodi Hou, after an internal investigation revealed improper deals and a possible technology transfer to a Chinese firm headed by the late TuSimple co-founder, the company said on Monday.
The San Diego-based startup’s operations director, Ersin Yumer, will serve as interim CEO and president while TuSimple’s board of directors searches for a permanent successor. Hou was also the company’s chief technology officer.
TuSimple shares fell more than 40% in midday trade following the news.
TuSimple said in a regulatory filing filed Monday that it believes, based on an investigation by its board of directors, that some of its employees worked paid hours for Hydron, a Chinese startup developing autonomous hydrogen-powered trucks, in 2021. Those employees shared confidential information with Hydron before a non-disclosure agreement was signed, TuSimple said.
The board’s investigation began in July and is ongoing, the company said.
The company’s relationship with Hydron is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to a report Monday from the Wall Street Journal. Investigators are investigating whether TuSimple’s leadership failed to make required disclosures about their transactions with Hydron and whether the deals harmed TuSimple’s investors, the report said.
A representative from TuSimple declined to comment on the details of the journal’s report.
Hou co-founded TuSimple in 2015 and became its CEO in March of this year. Shortly after taking the top job, he told CNBC he wanted to become an “evangelist” for the potential of autonomous trucking.
“Who is the best person to run this company? This is me! Because I’m a relentless decision-making engine backed by the technical background,” Hou said in one Interview with CNBC on March 30th.
Hydron was founded in 2021 by Mo Chen, another co-founder of TuSimple, who previously served as Executive Chairman. Hydron initially announced plans to build hydrogen fuel cell electric trucks in North America, but has so far mainly operated in China.
TuSimple will report its third-quarter results after the market close on Monday, but has postponed its conference call to Tuesday morning.
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