Over 124,000 internal corporate files and documents, including private communications between top executives, are the basis of new reporting published Sunday dubbed "The Uber Files"—a detailed look at the ride-hailing juggernaut that aggressively lobbied governments around the world to ease regulations and pass legislation friendly to the company's bottom line but often harmful to traditional taxi rivals and its own drivers.
First obtained by The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. and subsequently shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the trove of documents offers a damning picture of the U.S.-based tech company that revolutionized ride-hailing with a smartphone app that allowed independent drivers to become instant taxi cab drivers.
According to the ICIJ:
As it grew from scrappy Silicon Valley startup to a world-conquering multi-billion dollar operation, Uber promoted itself as a leader of the digital revolution.
But the tech company pushed its agenda the old-fashioned way. Uber’s scandals and missteps in the United States, from its spying on government officials to its leaks of executive misconduct, have been the subject of books, TV series and newspaper investigations.
Now, a new leak of records reveal the inside story of how the ride-hailing giant’s executives muscled into new markets, then managed the fallout, spending gobs of cash on a global influence machine deployed to win favors from politicians, regulators and other leaders, who were often eager to lend a hand.
The Guardian reports how the extensive leak of data "lays bare the ethically questionable practices that fueled the company’s transformation into one of Silicon Valley’s most famous exports."
The newspaper says the files cover the "five-year period when Uber was run by its co-founder Travis Kalanick, who tried to force the cab-hailing service into cities around the world, even if that meant breaching laws and taxi regulations."
Episodes detailed in the reporting include ruthless behavior of Kalanick who appeared less concerned with the well-being of Uber drivers than securing the company's ability to operate in new cities or countries.
Gig Workers Rising, a collective of workers operating in the gig economy, said the leak shows how ruthless Uber was with Kalanick at the helm, but that the company continues to mistreat its drivers:
Responding to the first batch of reporting on the files—with much more expected in the coming days—Sandeep Vaheesan, legal director of the Open Markets Institute, a think tank focused on corporate power and monopolies, called it a "damning report on Uber's predatory methods of competition and growth, which antitrust enforcers here and abroad unfortunately aided and abetted because 'innovation.'"