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13 Jul 2022

Uber exploited violence against drivers, broke law & used investor money to ‘seduce’ drivers in its global expansion, alleges report

In July 2022 the Guardian and media organisations around the world (via the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) published reports from a leak of more than 124,000 Uber documents dating from 2013-2017. The whistleblower was Mark MacGann, Uber’s former chief lobbyist for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The cache of files, which span 2013 to 2017, includes more than 83,000 emails, iMessages and WhatsApp messages, allegedly shows how the tech giant flouted laws, duped police, exploited violence against drivers, and secretly lobbied governments during its aggressive global expansion.

Allegations revealed by the leak include the company welcoming violence against its drivers at anti-Uber protests to boost its PR, launching and promoting an unlicenced driver service in Amsterdam despite knowing it was illegal and that drivers could face jail and paying academics six figure sums to publish research promoting the economic benefits of the company's gig economy model.

Documents allegedly show that when entering new markets, Uber subsidised drivers heavily to attract a pool of cars large enough to offer an instant service to customers and to undercut taxis. These subsidies involved spending billions of investors’ cash, and Uber looked to cut what it paid drivers as soon as it could.

In a statement responding to the leak, Uber admitted to “mistakes and missteps”, but said it had been transformed since 2017 under the leadership of its current chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi.

“We have not and will not make excuses for past behaviour that is clearly not in line with our present values,” it said. “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.”.

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