Investigation: Leaked Uber documents suggest aggressive expansion strategies

Los Angeles: According to a joint media investigation on Sunday, a cache of leaked private documents from the ride-sharing corporation Uber shows the unethical and possibly criminal strategies it used to drive its rapid international expansion beginning nearly ten years ago.

The investigation, known as the “Uber Files,” which involved numerous news outlets, discovered that company officials used the occasionally violent backlash from the taxi industry against drivers to gain support and elude regulatory authorities as it sought to expand into new markets early in its history.

The disclosures, compiled from 124,000 papers from 2013 to 2017 and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, are the latest blow to a corporation racked by controversy as it grew into a disruptive force in local transportation.

Uncensored text and email correspondence between executives are included in the cache, with standouts coming from co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick, who was forced to resign in 2017 after being accused of brutal management techniques and numerous instances of sexual and psychological harassment at the workplace.

During sometimes-heated protests in Paris in 2016 against Uber’s entry into the market, Kalanick urged for a counter-protest and texted other business executives, “Violence guarantee(s) results.”

The Washington Post, one of the media sources involved in the investigation, claimed that Uber’s explosive growth depended on subsidized drivers and discounted fares that undercut the taxi business, “sometimes without seeking permits to operate as a taxi and livery service.”

As cab drivers felt their means of support were threatened, they faced violent reactions across Europe. But, according to the Post, the study discovered that “in some cases, when drivers were attacked, Uber executives rapidly shifted to capitalize” to seek public and regulatory backing.

According to the Guardian, Uber had used comparable strategies in European nations like Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and Italy, mobilizing drivers and enticing them to report crimes to the police when they were the victims of violence to use media attention to persuade the authorities to grant them concessions.

According to a Kalanick representative, he “never recommended that Uber should take advantage of violence at the expense of driver safety,” strongly disputing the findings as having a “false purpose.”

On the other hand, Uber attributed the Sunday incident to previously acknowledged “mistakes” made by the Kalanick administration.

It noted that his successor, Dara Khosrowshahi, “was tasked with transforming every aspect of how Uber operates,” saying, “We’ve moved from an era of confrontation to one of collaboration, demonstrating a willingness to come to the table and find common ground with former opponents, including labor unions and taxi companies.”

‘Kill switch

According to the Post, the study also revealed that Uber made efforts to use its technological advantage to elude regulatory investigations.

It recounted a situation where Kalanick used a “kill switch” to remotely disable devices in an Amsterdam office from accessing Uber’s internal systems during a police raid.

He emailed a worker asking, “Please hit the kill switch as soon as possible.” “AMS (Amsterdam) access must be terminated.”

According to Devon Spurgeon, the former CEO “never authorized any acts or programs that would impede justice in any country,” a spokesperson for Kalanick.

In addition, Kalanick “has never been charged in any jurisdiction for obstruction of justice or any comparable offense” and “did not establish, supervise or monitor these systems put up by legal and compliance departments,” according to the statement.

The investigation, however, alleged that Uber officials knew their acts violated the law and that they had become “pirates,” naming one as proof.

According to sources, the documents show that Uber also lobbied governments to support its growth, particularly an advocate in Emmanuel Macron of France, who served as the country’s economy minister from 2014 to 2016 and is now its president.

According to The Washington Post, the business thought Macron would persuade authorities “to be ‘less conservative’ in their interpretation of restrictions limiting the company’s operations.”

Although Macron was a vocal advocate of Uber and the notion of making France a “start-up nation,” it appears from the stolen documents that the minister’s views occasionally conflicted with those of the socialist government.

Leftist legislators were outraged by the disclosures and accused Uber and Macron of violating “all our regulations, all our social rights, and against employees’ rights” and the “pillage of the country.”