A ‘kill switch’, Emmanuel Macron under pressure, and a whistleblower unveiled: A quick look at the Uber files

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Details of Uber’s allegedly aggressive “shitstorm” tactics to shake up the taxi industry and claim global ride-sharing dominance have been leaked.

The whistleblower has now spoken out as the fallout hits international leaders including the French president Emmanuel Macron.

Here is an overview of what is called Uber Files.

What are the big revelations?

These are some of the extraordinary lengths the ride-sharing service has taken to gain a foothold in nearly 30 countries, or they often pushed without government approval:

  • A “immobilizer” to cut off access to its servers during raids, to thwart regulators and law enforcement
  • Covertly lobbying political leaders on labor laws and other issues, including Emmanuel Macron when he was Minister of Economy
  • And he used tax havens, including Bermuda, funnel funds and reduce its tax bill by millions of dollars, while trying to “divert attention” by helping authorities collect taxes from drivers

The records cover 2013 to 2017during a period of massive expansion for the company under the former managing director Travis Kalanick.

Travis Kalanick helped found Uber in 2009.(Reuters: Danish Siddiqui)

Mr Kalanick’s personal messages to staff were part of the leak, including one sent during a police raid in amsterdam:

Such “stealth technology” to fend off government investigations has been used in raids in at least six countries.

Mr Kalanick also sent a message to colleagues saying ‘violence guarantees success’ as attacks were threatened on Uber drivers in France.

His spokesperson, Devon Spurgeonsaid the former chief executive “has never suggested that Uber profits from violence at the expense of driver safety.”

Whistleblower Mark MacGann was Uber’s top lobbyist from 2014 to 2016 in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

He said Uber entered new markets using guerrilla tactics, and when responding to a colleague about his plan for Poland, he wrote:

Their so-called “shit pyramid,” a presentation revealed in this latest cache of files, included driver lawsuits and direct litigation.

Other messages revealed their response to the government’s efforts to shut down the ride-sharing service in Thailand and India.

Nairi Hourdajian, then Uber’s global communications manager, wrote to a colleague: “We are just illegal.”

How did it happen?

The 124,000 documents were leaked to a British newspaper The Guardian then shared with International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The nonprofit Network of Investigative Journalists called it “an unprecedented look at how Uber has challenged taxi laws and workers’ rights.”

What are the repercussions so far?

One of the big names caught in the records is Emmanuel Macron.

The French president is facing pressure over his reported connections while he was economy minister.

Emmanuel Macron sits on a desk in front of a paneled wall decorated with gold accents, next to French and European flags.
Emmanuel Macron would have been a key ally behind the scenes.(PA: Ian Langsdon, swimming pool)

Mr Macron’s office told a French newspaper The world that in his role at the time, he had frequent contact with many companies disrupting the service industry, and that there was a need to facilitate the removal of red tape.

The Guardian reported that while other members of the socialist government at the time had doubts about Uber’s push into taxi territory, Mr Macron exchanged text messages with Uber executives, who told him identified as a key ally behind the scenes.

The left-wing Nupes political alliance said it would call for a parliamentary inquiry into Mr Macron’s role.

French politician and member of the Nupes alliance Alexis Corbiere tweeted:

far-right national rally party spokesperson Sebastien Chenu said Mr Macron was a “lobbyist serving foreign private interests, an ideologue of globalization and deregulation”.

And the European Commission asked the former EU digital chief Neelie Kroesfor more details on his time lobbying for Uber.

Ms Kroes served as EU commissioner from 2004 to 2014, first as EU antitrust chief and then as digital chief.

What did the whistleblower say?

Former Uber lobbyist Marc MacGann said the company’s access to high-level authorities in some countries was “deeply unfair” and “undemocratic”.

He said The Guardian he “regretted being a part of it” and should have “pushed harder to stop the madness”.

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One of the scenes revealed by the investigation detailed his texts to Mr. Macron in end of 2015as the riots in France forced Uber to be partially suspended.

French riot police during a demonstration against Uber
French riot police on guard as striking taxi drivers demonstrate in Paris in 2015.(Reuters: Charles Platiau)

Hours after Mr. MacGann’s messages to Mr. Macron in October, the suspension was lifted, according to the newspapers.

This was among several undisclosed communications with the current president uncovered by the investigation.

And what did Uber say about all of this?

The company released a statement from the spokesperson Jill Hazelbaker, who said there was “no shortage of reporting” on the company’s “errors” before 2017.

But she said that’s why Dara Khosrowshahi was appointed chief executive, with 90% of the company’s employees joining after his appointment.

“We have not and will not find excuses for past behavior that is clearly inconsistent with our current values,” she said.

ABC/son


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