A spokeswoman for Benchmark — one of Uber's largest and earliest investors that currently holds a 13 percent stake in the firm — called the company's recent behavior "utterly unacceptable." The comment that the investment group provided to The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday was issued as a clarification on the lawsuit that Benchmark recently filed against former Uber Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick, alleging that the 41-year-old defrauded investors and broke his fiduciary duty, in addition to obstructing the ride-hailing giant's search for a new chief that's meant to help navigate it out of its current troubles. As part of the same statement, Benchmark said that its decision to file for litigation against Mr. Kalanick was "extremely difficult" and that the company didn't make it lightly but ultimately deemed it necessary if Uber is to thrive in the future without controversies.
According to Benchmark, avoiding litigation against Uber's co-founder would indirectly approve of the corporate culture and general behavior at the firm that he allegedly either nurtured or didn't do enough to stop. Benchmark is one of the several major investors in Uber that pressured Mr. Kalanick to resign his position in late June, shortly after he announced that he's taking a leave of absence due to a personal tragedy that resulted in his mother dying and his father being seriously injured in a boating accident in May. The Menlo Park, California-based investment firm is now aiming to completely oust him from the company he co-founded in 2009 by legally revoking the three Uber board seats Mr. Kalanick instated in mid-2016, one of which he holds himself while the other two are currently empty. Benchmark insists that Uber's ex-CEO broke his fiduciary duty by appointing people loyal to him as the ride-hailing giant's directors, consequently maintaining a tight grip on its upper management at the expense of investors.
Uber's supposedly predatory corporate culture that's been the subject of many controversies in recent months resulted in some allegations of sexual harassment earlier this year, which is another criticism that Benchmark directed at Mr. Kalanick. The latest turn of events comes shortly after one of Uber's other major investors offered to buy out Benchmark's stake in the company, claiming that the firm isn't acting in the startup's best interests.