While Uber conquers foreign markets, back home in their United States base things are heating up regarding a contentious trial between them and Google’s self-driving offset Waymo. Recent allegations accusing Uber of deploying an espionage team to steal trade secrets from their rivals is being investigated by federal prosecutors, according to The Chicago Tribune.
The information was gained from a 37-page letter that Uber’s former manager of global intelligence sent to a company lawyer in May and only became public knowledge when brought up during a court hearing regarding the Waymo/Uber debacle. Yesterday, Uber's deputy general counsel Angela Padilla dismissed the ex-employee's "fantastic" claims and stated the letter was used for extortion. Padilla told a San Francisco federal court, "Given the huge sums of money that Mr Jacobs was demanding at the outset, I felt it was clearly extortionist especially given the low value of his claims".
Instead, the revelation prompted a forum that began questioning the ethics and conduct of Uber. The company has faced a wash of allegations concerning sexual harassment, technological dupery aimed at regulators and the cover-up of a hacking attack that robbed the personal information of 57 million passengers and 600,000 drivers.
Richard Jacobs, the former Uber manager whose lawyer was responsible for the letter stated during the hearing that Uber had created a secret unit with the sole purpose of stealing trade secrets from overseas rivals. No names were mentioned but did mention that some of this information regarded drivers.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup who oversaw the hearing accused Uber’s legal team of withholding information, “I can’t trust anything you say because it has been proven wrong so many times,” Alsup told Uber attorney Arturo Gonzalez. The judge also called Uber’s espionage teams as “a plumber’s unit doing bad deeds.”
A new trial date hasn’t been set, but Alsup promised to make the entire letter available to the public for perusal.
Uber's Russian Deal
Uber recently announced its merger with Russia’s taxi service Yandex. Russian antitrust regulators have approved the union between the two ride-sharing companies. The finalities of the union are expected to be completed in January of next year.
The deal gives Yandex majority control or 59.3 percent but also stops the newly joined companies from blocking drivers, partners or passengers from doing business with rival services. Better yet, the two companies will be interchangeable when they begin operations, meaning that either of the apps will allow a passenger to book rides with drivers who can accept both requests.
This is another foray into partnerships for the American transport app; they also sold their stake in China to rival Didi Chuxing in 2016 in exchange for 20 percent of the operation. In total, the company is worth $35 billion while Uber maintains a $7 billion share.
“I have no doubt that Uber China and Didi Chuxing will be stronger together. That's why I'm so excited about our future, both in China — a country which has been incredibly open to innovation in our industry — and the rest of the world, where ridesharing is increasingly becoming a credible alternative to car ownership,” wrote co-founder and CEO of Uber Travis Kalanick in a Facebook post at the time.