Need a lift from the airport? Call an Uber. In no time flat, a driver in an unmarked vehicle will whisk you away to your destination. The rideshare service is widely accepted by passengers who trust the company and its battalion of self-employed drivers, but Uber traveled some dark roads to get where they are today.
Born in the Silicone Valley amid questionable practices and well-lined political pockets, as the infant grew, it expanded into other countries. Uber now contracts thousands of drivers around the world who’ve turned their privately owned vehicles into taxicabs.
Taxi drivers must be registered to cart folks around. Their backgrounds are thoroughly investigated and they’re required to pass an additional driving exam for the safety of their passengers. They drive identifiable vehicles which, by law, require routine maintenance and upkeep. Uber drivers…not so much.
Uber’s lax attitude is exactly why the company is under investigation after a dumptruck-sized load of documents fell into the hands of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Oops… Mountains of incriminating documents, including texts, emails, and memos, couldn’t provide even the slightest trace of Uber’s early ethical practices.
The documents date back between 2013 and 2017 when billionaire co-founder Travis Kalanick was steering Uber’s wheel. An impatient sorta guy, Kalanick mashed the pedal to the metal when he took the company worldwide.
Uber caught a lot of flack for ignoring laws as its top executives laughed it all off, even acknowledging their disregard in internal international correspondence. A top executive laughingly wrote, “we’re just fucking illegal.” He referred to Uber’s inner circle as “pirates.”
During this time period is when Uber jumped into the political arena where typical companies dare not go. French President Emmanuel Macron was an easy touch for the seasoned lobbyist they sent in.
Macron became untypically overzealous and went the extra kilometer to see Uber conquer France. Believe what your gut is telling you.
Macron even went so far as to allow Uber an open line of communication with him and his highest-level staff members. But Macron is far from being the only political puppet, media mogul, or fellow gazillionaire who’ve been lobbied to keep their traps shut concerning the company’s unlawful practices. Follow the money.
In the company’s early stages, a top executive raised the concern of registered taxi drivers taking their loss of business frustrations out on Uber drivers. Kalanick very coldly answered back with, “I think it’s worth it. Violence guarantees success.”
Uber is squirming. Kalanick let his spokesperson Devon Spurgeon do his talking. She said the Consortium for Investigative Journalists is making lots of hoopla over nothing and that they’re pushing a “false agenda.”
“In pressing its false agenda that Mr. Kalanick directed illegal or improper conduct, the ICIJ claims to have documents that Mr. Kalanick was on or even authored, some of which are almost a decade old,” she said.
“Tellingly, the ICIJ flatly rejected requests to review any of those documents, which further exacerbates concerns about many of the source documents’ authenticity.”
The documents reveal how Uber paid academics to publish misleading research that overly exaggerated the financial worthiness of the business model they were presenting.
Once Uber had permission to enter a city, they’d go in with unprofitable prices just long enough to run the local taxi companies out of business. Once the mission had been accomplished, up they went.
Uber has admitted to making “mistakes and missteps” along the way, but the current higher-ups say all of that has been corrected and that the company is now on the straight and narrow.
We’ll know if this is true soon enough. Over 180 investigative journalists are combing through more than 124,000 documents. If there’s a needle buried in that haystack, they’ll find it, and we’ll be the first to let you know. Stay tuned.