Thousands of leaked files have exposed how Uber courted top politicians, and how far it went to avoid justice.
They detailed the extensive help Uber got from leaders such as Emmanuel Macron and ex-EU commissioner, Neelie Kroes.
They also showed how the taxi firm’s former boss personally ordered the use of a “kill switch” to prevent raiding police from accessing computers.
Uber says its “past behaviour wasn’t in line with present values” and it was a “different company” today.
The Uber Files were a trove of more than 124,000 records, including 83,000 emails and 1,000 other files involving conversations, spanning 2013 to 2017.
They were leaked to the Guardian, and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and a number of media organisations including BBC Panorama. They revealed, for the first time, how a $90m-a-year lobbying and public relations effort recruited friendly politicians to help in its campaign to disrupt Europe’s taxi industry.
While French taxi drivers staged sometimes violent protests in the streets against Uber, Mr Macron – now president – was on first name terms with Uber’s controversial boss, Travis Kalanick, and told him he would reform laws in the firm’s favour.
Uber’s ruthless business methods were widely known, but for the first time the files gave a unique inside view of the lengths it went to in achieving its goals.
They showed how ex-EU digital commissioner, Neelie Kroes, one of Brussels’ top officials, was in talks to join Uber before her term ended – and then secretly lobbied for the firm, in potential breach of EU ethics rules.
At the time, Uber was not just one of the world’s fastest-growing companies – it was one of the most controversial, dogged by court cases, allegations of sexual harassment, and data breach scandals.
Eventually, shareholders had enough, and Travis Kalanick was forced out in 2017.
Uber said his replacement, Dara Khosrowshahi, was “tasked with transforming every aspect of how Uber operates” and has “installed the rigorous controls and compliance necessary to operate as a public company”.
Paris was the scene of Uber’s first European launch, and it met stiff resistance from the taxi industry, culminating in violent protests in the streets. -BBC