A trove of more than 124,000 leaked documents suggests the ride-share giant Uber secretly lobbied governments, disregarded laws, and exploited violence to facilitate the company’s global expansion, according to the Guardian.
The documents were leaked to the UK news agency by an anonymous source, who later identified himself as Mark McGann, the former Uber chief lobbyist for Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
He stated, “It is my duty to speak up and help governments and parliamentarians right some fundamental wrongs. Morally, I had no choice in the matter.”
With the assistance of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the Guardian pored over thousands of notes, presentations, emails, invoices, and other legal documents exchanged and signed by top Uber executives, political figures, bureaucrats, and leaders from 30 countries. The documents included unfiltered communications between the top executives and their teams.
According to the Guardian, more than 180 journalists participated in the research. A series of investigative reports will be published in the coming days, revealing the specifics of the company’s alleged unethical and illegal activities.
The leaked materials span the five years from 2013 to 2017, when Uber was run by its co-founder Travis Kalanick, who sought to expand the company to major cities around the globe. The documents “pull back the curtains on the methods Uber used to lay the foundations for its empire,” the Guardian reported.
As per the documents, Kalanick allegedly tried to force the ride-share service into every city using illegal means, including taxi regulation violations.
The records indicate Uber allegedly tried to sway favor by courting prime ministers, presidents, oligarchs, media barons, and billionaires. The company reportedly pressured government officials to pass laws that favored the ride-sharing company and offered unsustainable price models and customer incentives to undercut existing cab and taxi businesses out of the market.
During police raids on the company, executives allegedly used a “kill switch” to hide data from the authorities.
The leaked messages suggest Uber executives were in on the illegal schemes. An executive supposedly joked about how they had become pirates, and another added, “We are just f–king illegal.”
In one conversation, Kalanick reportedly ignored the worries of other executives who believed that sending Uber drivers to a demonstration in France put them at risk of being attacked by enraged taxi rivals.
He allegedly responded, “I think it’s worth it; violence guarantees success.”
However, Kalanick’s spokesperson asserted that Kalanick “never suggested that Uber should take advantage of violence at the expense of driver safety” and claimed that any suggestion that he was involved in such activity was completely false.
Additionally, texts between Kalanick and then-Minister of Economics Emmanuel Macron suggest the latter aided the business covertly in France while serving as the country’s minister of economics, giving Uber frequent access to him and his team. Now the French president, Macron appears to have gone above and beyond to assist Uber, even allegedly assuring the firm he had arranged a secret “deal” with its opponents in the French cabinet.
Kalanick’s spokesperson stated that the company’s growth initiatives were “led by over a hundred leaders in dozens of countries around the world and at all times under the direct oversight and with the full approval of Uber’s robust legal, policy, and compliance groups.”
In a statement responding to the leak, Uber acknowledged “mistakes and missteps” but said that the company has transformed since 2017 under the direction of its current chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi.
“We have not and will not make excuses for past behavior 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,” the statement read.