Uber admits past mistakes, says it’s a ‘different’ company now

In a statement, Uber acknowledged “mistakes” in the past and said that the company under CEO Dara Khosrowshahi since 2017 “is a different company”.

uber investigation
The company statement said that Uber “is a different company today”. (Reuters)

After a media investigation unveiled Uber’s internal emails and texts, which highlighted the company’s ‘dubious’ methods of bypassing laws and other illegal cover-ups, the cab-hailing firm on Monday responded by saying that ‘mistakes’ were made prior to 2017, following which it fired several executives and initiated a restructuring process.

In a statement, Uber acknowledged “mistakes” in the past and said that the company under CEO Dara Khosrowshahi since 2017 “is a different company”. “We have not and will not make excuses for past behaviour, that is clearly not in line with our present values. 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,” the statement said.

The investigation conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), along with more than 180 journalists and 40 different publications, brought to light emails between Uber’s management, employees and other executive staff.

The investigation was headed by leading publications, including The Guardian and The Indian Express, which showed how Uber misled law enforcement, exploited drivers, flouted several laws and regulations, received kickbacks from various government employees and indulged in other illegal practices to maintain a dominant position in the market.

Responding to these leaks, Jill Hazelbaker, Uber’s senior vice-president of public affairs, said in a statement on Monday that “there has been no shortage of reporting on Uber’s mistakes prior to 2017. Thousands of stories have been published, multiple books have been written – there’s even been a TV series. Five years ago, those mistakes culminated in one of the most infamous reckonings in the history of corporate America. That reckoning led to an enormous amount of public scrutiny, a number of high-profile lawsuits, multiple government investigations and the termination of several senior executives”.

“It’s also exactly why Uber hired a new CEO – Dara Khosrowshahi – who was tasked with transforming every aspect of how Uber operates,” the statement said.

“Dara rewrote the company’s values, revamped the leadership team, made safety a top company priority, implemented best-in-class corporate governance, hired an independent board chair and installed the rigourous controls and compliance necessary to operate as a public company,” the statement added.

The company statement said that Uber “is a different company today”. It literally is a different company as “90% of current Uber employees joined after Dara became CEO”. Uber has “moved from an era of confrontation to one of collaboration, demonstrating a willingness to come to the table and find common ground with former opponents, including labour unions and taxi companies,” the statement said.

“We are now regulated in more than 10,000 cities around the world, working at all levels of government to improve the lives of those using our platform and the cities we serve,” the firm said.

“Among other things, we have invested heavily in safety, developing many of the technologies that are now industry standard and publishing a comprehensive report of the most serious safety incidents,” it added.

One of the most damning confidential email exchanges between executives and employees showed how Uber misdirected the public and authorities when serious allegations of rape surfaced against one of its drivers in India in 2014. The accused identified as Shiv Kumar Yadav reportedly had an earlier criminal record of sexual assault, yet Uber provided him with a licence and a cab on its platform. Instead of owning up to its oversight, Uber chose to try and shift the blame on the Indian authorities, including the Delhi police.

As per the reportage carried by Indian Express and other publications, Uber executives in San Francisco went into a damage control mode after their services were banned in the national capital following the 2014 rape incident. The collection of emails revealed major slip-ups and misdirection carried out under its earlier CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick which eventually led to the founder being ousted from the company.

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First published on: 12-07-2022 at 06:00 IST
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