Uber ‘Defied Taxi Laws, Lobbied Governments’ as Firm Expanded Its Global Clout, Leaked Docs Reveal
The documents revealed that Uber, which was founded in 2009, sought to skirt taxi regulations and offer inexpensive transportation via a ride-sharing app. According to the Uber Files, the company went to extraordinary lengths to establish itself in nearly 40 countries.In internal emails, staff referred to Uber’s “other than legal status”, or other forms of active non-compliance with regulations, in such countries as Turkey, South Africa, Spain, the Czech Republic, Sweden, France, Germany, and Russia.One senior executive was cited as writing in an email, “we are not legal in many countries, we should avoid making antagonistic statements.” Commenting on the tactics Uber tried to use in order to “avoid enforcement,” another executive reportedly wrote, “We have officially become pirates.”Obama, Macron Reportedly Lobbied for Uber The firm’s lobbyists, including former aides to President Barack Obama, purportedly pressed government officials to drop their investigations, rewrite labor and taxi laws and relax background checks on drivers.In another episode, when a French police official in 2015 appeared to ban one of Uber’s services in Marseille, Mark MacGann, Uber’s chief lobbyist in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, turned to then-French Minister of the Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs Emmanuel Macron, according to the leaked documents.The Uber Files also revealed that the firm used “stealth technology'' to tackle government investigations, using, in particular, a “kill switch'' that cut access to the company’s servers and kept authorities from obtaining evidence during raids in at least six countries.During a police raid in Amsterdam, for example, former Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick personally issued an order, “Please hit the kill switch ASAP […]. Access must be shut down in AMS (Amsterdam).”Violence Guarantees Success?Additionally, the documents cited Kalanick’s unnamed top executive in Asia as urging Uber managers to focus on driving growth, even when “fires start to burn.” The executive reportedly said, “Know this is a normal part of Uber’s business. Embrace the chaos. It means you’re doing something meaningful.”The tactics appeared to have been put into practice in January 2016, when Uber’s efforts to conquer markets in Europe led to protests in Belgium, Spain, Italy and France from taxi drivers who feared for their livelihoods.
Amid the taxi riots in Paris, Kalanick ordered French executives to retaliate by encouraging Uber drivers to stage a counter-protest with mass civil disobedience.In a statement responding to the leak, Uber admitted to “mistakes and missteps,” but added that the company had been transformed since 2017 under the leadership of its current CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.The Guardian, which is leading a global investigation into Uber Files, shared the data with media outlets across the world via the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a non-profit network of reporters, who released internal Uber texts, emails, invoices and other documents to deliver what the consortium described as “an unprecedented look into the ways Uber defied taxi laws and upended workers' rights.”Over 180 journalists from 40 news outlets, including Le Monde, the Washington Post and the BBC , are due to publish a series of investigative reports about Uber in the coming days.