Uber courted politicians to help it expand globally despite its ‘other than legal’ status, leaked documents show


A wealth of documents leaked to The Guardian suggest ride-sharing giant Uber knowingly defied local regulations, courted powerful officials and even viewed possible violence against its drivers as political leverage during a period of rapid global expansion under co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick.


More than 124,000 internal Uber documents dating from 2013 to 2017 have been leaked to The Guardian and shared with an international media group, the newspaper said on Sunday, including straightforward communications between Kalanick and top Uber executives that illustrate how the company operates.

In internal communications, Uber staff openly acknowledged the company’s “other than legal status” in some of the countries where it operated, and Uber’s head of global communications, Nairi Hourdajian, wrote to a colleague. in 2014 that “sometimes we get in trouble because, well, we’re just plain illegal,” according to The Guardian.

When anti-Uber protests led by taxi drivers erupted in Europe in 2016, leaked correspondence shows Kalanick ordered employees to encourage Uber drivers to stage a counter-protest in France despite warnings that this could put drivers at risk of attack, saying it could be ‘worth it’ because ‘violence guarantees[s] Success.” (Emails suggest the strategy was repeated at protests in Italy, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands, according to The Guardian.)

To help protect the startup, Uber would have developed what employees called the “kill switch,” which would shut down data systems in the event of a law enforcement raid and prevent investigators from acquiring evidence against the company.

The leak also includes messages between Kalanick and the then French economy minister and current president Emmanuel Macron, who told the company he had negotiated a secret “deal” in the French firm to help the carpooling company gain a foothold in the French market.

Uber allegedly courted relatives with other powerful European personalitiesattracted the support of powerful individuals in Russia, Germany and Italy by calling them “strategic investors” and offering financial stakes, and paid well-known academics hundreds of thousands of dollars for research that has supported the company’s economic demands, according to The Guardian.


In a statement to The GuardianKalanick’s spokesperson denied that the former Uber CEO ever authorized any action that “obstruct justice in any countryand said Kalanick never suggested the company should profit from violence at the expense of driver safety. “The reality was that Uber’s expansion initiatives were led by more than a hundred executives in dozens of countries around the world and at all times under the direct supervision and with the full approval of Uber’s strong legal, policy and compliance groups,” the Kalanick spokesperson said. Told The Guardian. Kalanick’s team also expressed doubts about the authenticity of the leaked documents. Forbes contacted Kalanick’s investment fund for comment.

Key Context

Kalanick resigned as CEO in 2017 when he was expelled by shareholders following a scandal around Uber work cultureafter former employees detailed sexual harassment and discrimination within the company. Current CEO Dara Khosrowshahi replaced Kalanick in 2017, and since then the company has revamped the management team, invested heavily in security and overhauled its corporate governance, the company said in a statement. statement Sunday. “We have not and will not find excuses for past behavior that is clearly inconsistent with our current values,” Uber said. “Instead, we’re asking the public to judge us on what we’ve done over the past five years and what we’ll do in the years to come.” Kalanick left the board in 2019.

To monitor

More reports on what The Guardian calls “Uber files”. The Guardian shared the leaked files and conducted an investigation with more than 180 journalists from 40 outlets, including the Washington Postthe BBC and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Further reading

Uber broke laws, deceived police and secretly pressured governments, leak reveals (The Guardian)

Uber Files: Massive Leak Reveals How Top Politicians Secretly Helped Uber (BBC)

How Uber gained access to world leaders, tricked investigators and exploited violence against its drivers in the battle for global dominance (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists)

About Charles D. Goolsby

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