WASHINGTON (AP) — As Uber aggressively entered markets around the world, the ride-hailing service pressured political leaders to loosen labor and taxi laws, used a “switch arrest” to thwart regulators and law enforcement, funneled money through Bermuda and other tax havens and planned to portray violence against its drivers as a way to win public sympathy , according to a report on Sunday.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a nonprofit network of investigative journalists, scoured Uber’s texts, emails, invoices and other internal documents to deliver what it called “an unbiased look precedent on how Uber defied taxi laws and workers’ rights.”
The documents were first leaked to Britain’s The Guardian newspaper, which shared them with the consortium.
In a written statement. Uber spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker acknowledged “mistakes” in the past and said CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, hired in 2017, had been “charged with transforming all aspects of how Uber operates… When we say Uber is a different company today, we literally mean it: 90% of current Uber employees joined after Dara became CEO.”
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Founded in 2009, Uber sought to circumvent taxi regulations and provide inexpensive transportation through a ride-sharing app. The consortium’s Uber records revealed the extraordinary efforts the company has undertaken to gain a foothold in nearly 30 countries.
Company lobbyists – including former aides to President Barack Obama – have pressed government officials to drop their investigations, rewrite labor and taxi laws and relax driver background checks, according to newspapers.
The investigation found Uber was using “stealth technology” to fend off government inquiries. The company, for example, used a “kill switch” that cut off access to Uber servers and prevented authorities from seizing evidence in raids in at least six countries. During a police raid in Amsterdam, Uber Files reported, former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick personally issued an order: “Please press the kill switch as soon as possible…Access must be closed to AMS (Amsterdam).”
The consortium also reported that Kalanick saw the threat of violence against Uber drivers in France by aggrieved taxi drivers as a way to gain public support. “Violence guarantees success,” Kalanick sent his colleagues.
In a response to the consortium, Kalanick spokesperson Devon Spurgeon said the former CEO “has never suggested that Uber should profit from violence at the expense of driver safety.”
Uber files say the company slashed its tax bill by millions of dollars by sending profits through Bermuda and other tax havens, then “sought to distract from its tax obligations by helping authorities collect the taxes of its drivers”.
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