(CNN Business) — Hundreds of thousands of leaked Uber documents obtained by Guardian and shared with a consortium Media reports show how during its most aggressive period of growth, the ride-sharing company allegedly used secret technology to thwart police investigations, sought favors from high-ranking government officials, and even perceived a way to take advantage of potential violent clashes between their drivers and taxi operators.
Reports by members of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), of which CNN is not a part, renew global scrutiny of Uber’s most controversial days between 2013 and 2017, a period that the company has tried to leave behind in recent years with new leadership. Under then-CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick, Uber openly took on regulators and taxi drivers amid a ruthless global expansion campaign.
capitalize on demonstrations
In 2016, during the massive anti-Uber demonstrations by taxi operators in Paris, Kalanick discussed the possibility of holding a rally of Uber users and drivers in the city, according to The Washington Post. Kalanick is said to have privately suggested that any backlash to the potential event would “be worth it” and “guarantee the success” of the company, according to the leaked documents. The leaked documents allegedly show how Uber seemed to capitalize on attacks against its drivers more generally, citing them “to secure meetings with politicians and push for regulatory changes”, reported Washington Post.
In a broader statement to the consortium responding to several of the reports, Devon Spurgeon, a spokesman for Kalanick, said the former CEO “never suggested Uber profited from violence at the expense of passenger safety.” Spurgeon confirmed the statement to CNN Business but declined to elaborate on it.
Uber also reportedly used a “kill switch” to prevent company data from falling into the hands of law enforcement during numerous police raids in various countries. according to Guardian, much more widely than previously known. The “kill switch” would have been deployed in six countries, including France, the Netherlands, Belgium, India, Hungary and Romania, severing connections between Uber computers in its local offices and the company’s main cloud network. . Spurgeon’s statement to ICIJ said the use of the tool had been approved by Uber’s legal and regulatory teams and was never “designed or implemented to ‘obstruct justice.'”
Political alliance efforts
As part of its global lobbying effort, the BBC reported, Uber cultivated close ties with Emmanuel Macron, who was serving as France’s economy minister at the time and met Kalanick at least four times. The two reportedly developed a friendly relationship, with Macron telling Kalanick that he could help make changes to French law favorable to the company. The BBC quoted a statement from Macron’s spokesman as saying that his job at the time “led him to meet and interact with many companies involved in the strong change … in the services sector, which had to be facilitated by the unlocking.” administrative and regulatory obstacles”.
And in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to expand in Russia, Uber and Kalanick tried to reach out to oligarchs and allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the ICIJ. Although the leaked documents do not suggest that Uber violated US sanctions, Washington Post said that “almost all of those Uber allied with then are under sanction for their alleged links to Putin by US or European authorities.” Spurgeon’s statement to ICIJ said that during a 2016 visit to Russia arranged by Uber’s policy and business development teams, Kalanick “at all times acted lawfully and with the clear approval and authorization of Uber’s legal team.” .
Kalanick stepped down as CEO of Uber in 2017 after months of public relations meltdowns, including over a tool he allegedly created to help drivers evade law enforcement in cities like Portland, Oregon, where he was not licensed to operate. Since then, Uber has tried to wipe the slate clean, replacing Kalanick with Dara Khosrowshahi, the former CEO of Expedia.
What Uber’s new leadership says
In a release Posted on its website, Uber distanced itself from its “mistakes prior to 2017,” which the company acknowledged “culminated in one of the most infamous showdowns in corporate America’s history.”
“We have not and will not excuse ourselves for past behavior that is clearly not in line with our current values,” Uber spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said in the statement, adding that 90% of current Uber employees came to the company after the change of leadership.
But the leaked documents show that despite Uber’s attempts to overcome its past, the company may continue to be persecuted by it in the future.