Thousands of leaked Uber documents show extreme measures the company allegedly took to aggressively expand

CNN Business

Hundreds of thousands of leaked Uber documents obtained by The Guardian and shared with a media consortium show how, during its most aggressive period of growth, the ride-hailing company allegedly used secret technology to thwart police investigations, sought favors from high-ranking government officials and even perceived a silver lining in possible violent clashes between its drivers and taxi operators.

Reports from members of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, of which CNN was not a part, renew the global examination of Uber’s most controversial days from 2013 to 2017 — a period the company has tried to outlast in recent years. years with new management. Under then-CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick, Uber openly feuded with regulators and taxi drivers amid a relentless drive for global expansion.

In 2016, during mass anti-Uber protests by taxi operators in Paris, Kalanick had discussed holding a rally of drivers and Uber drivers in the city, according to the Washington Post. Kalanick reportedly privately suggested that any backlash over the potential event would be “worth it” and “guarantee success” for the venture, according to the leaked documents. The leaked documents would show how Uber appeared to leverage attacks on its drivers more broadly, citing them “to secure meetings with politicians and push for regulatory changes,” the Post reported.

In a broader statement to the consortium in response to a number of reports, Devon Spurgeon, a spokesperson for Kalanick, said the former CEO “has never suggested that Uber should profit from violence at the expense of passenger safety”. Spurgeon confirmed the statement to CNN Business but declined to comment beyond that.

Uber also allegedly used a “kill switch” to prevent the company’s data from falling into the hands of law enforcement during numerous police raids in various countries, according to The Guardian, on a much broader basis than we didn’t know before. The kill switch was reportedly deployed in six countries, including France, the Netherlands, Belgium, India, Hungary and Romania, cutting connections between Uber’s computers in its local offices from the main network enterprise cloud. Spurgeon’s statement to the ICIJ said the tool’s use was approved by Uber’s legal and regulatory teams and was never “designed or implemented to” obstruct justice. “”.

As part of its global lobbying effort, the BBC reported, Uber cultivated close ties with Emmanuel Macron, who was France’s economy minister at the time and met Kalanick at least four times. The couple are said to have developed a relationship by first name and Macron told Kalanick he could help bring about changes to French law that would be favorable to the company. The BBC quoted a statement from Macron’s spokesman saying that his work at the time “brought him to meet and interact with many companies committed to radical change…in the service sector, which has had to be facilitated by unblocking administrative and regulatory obstacles”.

And in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to expand into Russia, Uber and Kalanick have tried to get closer to oligarchs and allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to ICIJ. Although the leaked documents do not suggest that Uber violated US sanctions, the Washington Post said that “almost everyone Uber has then allied with is under sanctions for their alleged ties to Putin by authorities. American or European. Spurgeon’s statement to the ICIJ said that during a 2016 visit to Russia organized by Uber’s policy and business development teams, Kalanick “acted at all times lawfully and with the approval and clear clearance from Uber’s legal team.”

Kalanick resigned as CEO of Uber in 2017 after months of public relations crises, including over a tool he allegedly built to help drivers dodge law enforcement in cities like Portland, Oregon, where he was not licensed to operate. Uber has since tried to turn the page by replacing Kalanick with Dara Khosrowshahi, the former CEO of Expedia.

In a statement posted on its website, Uber distanced itself from its “pre-2017 mistakes,” which the company said “resulted in one of the most infamous calculations in corporate American history.”

“We have not and will not make excuses for past behavior that is clearly inconsistent with our current values,” Uber spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said in the statement, adding that 90 % of current Uber employees joined the company after the leadership change.

But the leaked documents show that despite Uber’s attempts to come out with his past, the company may continue to be haunted by him for a long time to come.

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