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Business News/ News / India/  ‘Mistakes were made…’, Uber replies to charges of flouting law & illegal tactics
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‘Mistakes were made…’, Uber replies to charges of flouting law & illegal tactics

An investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has unearthed controversial internal communication accusing Uber of adopting illegal tactics to flout rules and regulatory provisions to dominate the market. Uber admits mistakes were made, claiming they are a new company now.

An investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has unearthed controversial internal communication accusing Uber of adopting illegal tactics to flout rules and regulatory provisions to dominate the market.  (REUTERS)Premium
An investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has unearthed controversial internal communication accusing Uber of adopting illegal tactics to flout rules and regulatory provisions to dominate the market.  (REUTERS)

Under scanner over the leaked cache of confidential files terming its operations as ‘ethically dubious’ and ‘potentially illegal’ to fuel its frenetic global expansion Uber has responded saying, mistakes were made and the reckoning led to change of leadership, which made safety a top company priority to implement best-in-class corporate governance.

In an investigation carried out by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) after leaked emails and messages were accessed by The Guardian, Uber has been accused of flouting laws, sidelining regulations and using illegal malpractices to ‘dominate the market.’

“Five years ago, those mistakes culminated in one of the most infamous reckonings in the history of corporate America. That reckoning led to an enormous amount of public scrutiny, a number of high-profile lawsuits, multiple government investigations, and the termination of several senior executives," Jill Hazelbaker, VP Communications and Public Affairs, Uber has stated.

The Guardian culled out 124,000 documents from 2013-2017 initially and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Dubbed as the "Uber Files," the investigation involving dozens of news organizations found that company officials leveraged the sometimes violent backlash from the taxi industry against drivers to garner support and evaded regulatory authorities as it looked to conquer new markets early in its history, according to AFP.

Pinning the blame on its former CEO, Travis Kalanick, ‘Uber is a different company today,’ says Jill Hazelbaker, claiming new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, “rewrote the company’s values, revamped the leadership team, made safety a top company priority, implemented best-in-class corporate governance, hired an independent board chair, and installed the rigorous controls and compliance necessary to operate as a public company."

But he has a lot to answer explain, according to some excerpts on India, reported by The Indian Express, on August 23, 2014, Uber’s then Asia Head, Allen Penn sent out an email to the Uber team stating, "Embrace the chaos. It means you are doing something meaningful.' Months after this missive, a woman passenger was sexually assaulted in an Uber cab by its driver in New Delhi on December 5, 2014.

In an email titled “dealing with regulatory issues," Penn even stated – “Irrespective of what the competition and entrenched interests say, You and Uber are the ones improving India" – showcasing instructions to keep the authorities uninformed and how to stonewall queries.

“We will likely have both local and national issues in almost every city in India for the rest of your tenure at Uber… Don’t talk to the Government or folks close to the Government unless you have specifically discussed with Jordan (a reference to Jordan Condo, Uber’s Head of Public Policy for Asia)… we will generally stall, be unresponsive, and often say no to what they want. This is how we operate and it’s nearly always the best. Early quick meetings set us up for failure. Get comfortable with that approach… don’t let it distract you from your mission to dominate the market," the email quoted by Indian Express read.

The investigation also reveals Uber's ‘Kill Switch’ strategy that used a blocking software to switch off systems in the event of serious regulatory action, like a tax raid. There were 13 instances between 2014-2016 when ‘Kill Switch’ was used across the globe.

"We have not and will not make excuses for past behaviour that is clearly not in line with our present values. Instead, we ask the public to judge us by what we’ve done over the last five years and what we will do in the years to come," Jill Hazelbaker states.

 

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Published: 11 Jul 2022, 09:17 AM IST
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