Uber is facing at least five criminal investigations in the United States, two more than previously believed, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. The Department of Justice has been probing allegations against the San Francisco, California-based company for a while now and foreign governments may use its current predicament as an opportunity to impose further fees on it or outright ban it amid pressure from traditional taxi firms and certain political actors, some industry watchers speculate, pointing to London as an example of one such scenario that’s currently playing out.
Uber’s aggressive expansion strategy has been the backbone of its widely reported corporate culture which saw the ride-hailing service provider make numerous negative headlines in recent times, having previously been accused of nurturing a predatory working environment. The legal department of the most valuable startup in the world has also been operating in a somewhat aggressive manner, with its departing chief Salle Yoo previously saying that her team is meant to solve business problems instead of legal ones. Ms. Yoo was the person who helped co-founder and former Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick position the company in a way that allows it to expand its ride-sharing service beyond professional drivers, consequently growing in a rapid manner. She also previously revealed that her role at Uber was the first one in which she was asked to be “innovative” as an attorney, with that particular request coming from Mr. Kalanick himself.
Apart from the previously reported Greyball, Uber used another piece of software to gain a competitive edge in a manner that may not be legal, Bloomberg reports, stating that the company’s Sydney office developed Surfcam, a tool for scrapping public data from rivals like Grab and using it to determine how much drivers they have and where exactly they’re located. Surfcam was ultimately approved by the legal team much like the controversial “Hell” was in the United States, with Uber’s lawyers concluding that the law and its enforcement aren’t clear on the matter and are worth being tested given the potential benefits of such a move. Uber Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan also adopted the title of General Counsel for the purposes of claiming attorney-client privilege in regards to any communications with his colleagues with the ultimate goal of making them harder to be subpoenaed, sources claim. In overall, some industry watchers speculate that Uber’s constant insistence on testing the law in previous years in an effort to gain a competitive edge may backfire and hurt the tech giant in the coming years as it tries to move closer to an IPO which is presently planned no later than 2020, according to previous statements from new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.