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Response from Travis Kalanick to the Uber Files

5 min

The Uber Files is an international investigation into the ride-hailing company’s aggressive entrance into cities around the world — while frequently challenging the reach of existing laws and regulations. Documents illuminate how Uber used stealth technology to thwart regulators and law enforcement and how the company courted prominent political leaders as it sought footholds outside the United States.

The project is based on more than 124,000 emails, text messages, memos and other records. They were obtained by the Guardian and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which helped lead the project, and dozens of other news organizations, including The Washington Post. Journalists from 29 countries joined the effort to analyze the records over four months.

Read key takeaways from the Uber Files investigation

Below is the response from a spokeswoman, Devon Spurgeon, on behalf of Travis Kalanick to the Uber Files investigation.

Travis Kalanick never authorized any actions or programs that would obstruct justice in any country. Mr. Kalanick never authorized or directed any illegal conduct in Uber’s expansion efforts in Russia, and in fact had very limited involvement in those expansion plans. And Mr. Kalanick never suggested that Uber should take advantage of violence at the expense of driver safety. Any accusation that Mr. Kalanick directed, engaged in, or was involved in any of these activities is completely false

The reality was that Uber’s expansion initiatives were led by over a hundred leaders in dozens of countries around the world and at all times under the direct oversight and with the full approval of Uber’s robust legal, policy, and compliance groups.

In pressing its false agenda that Mr. Kalanick directed illegal or improper conduct, the ICIJ claims to have documents that Mr. Kalanick was on or even authored, some of which are almost a decade old. Tellingly, the ICIJ flatly rejected requests to review any of those documents, which further exacerbates concerns about many of the source documents’ authenticity.

When Mr. Kalanick co-founded Uber in 2009, he and the rest of the Uber team pioneered an industry that has now become a verb. To do this required a change of the status quo, as Uber became a serious competitor in an industry where competition had been historically outlawed. As a natural and foreseeable result, entrenched industry interests all over the world fought to prevent the much-needed development of the transportation industry. As the ICIJ and the world know, Uber persevered. It would not be surprising to learn that the very reporters and individuals involved in the ICIJ’s reporting on these issues in fact use Uber themselves on a regular basis, demonstrating precisely how meaningful Uber has become all over the world.

Regarding false accusations that Uber’s use of "kill switches" or other means to temporarily restrict access to Uber's data in the event of an extrajudicial raid constituted "obstruction of justice" or other related crimes.

Uber, like most other businesses operating overseas, used tools that protect intellectual property and the privacy of their customers, and ensure due process rights are respected in the event of an extrajudicial raid. They are a common business practice and not designed or implemented to “obstruct justice.” These fail-safe protocols do not delete any data or information and all decisions about their use involved, were vetted by, and were approved by Uber’s legal and regulatory departments. Notably, Mr. Kalanick did not create, direct or oversee these systems set up by legal and compliance departments and has never been charged in any jurisdiction for obstruction of justice or any related offense.

Regarding false accusations that Mr. Kalanick authorized or directed the use of Greyball:

Mr. Kalanick never authorized nor directed the program called Greyball for any illegal purpose. The program was designed and used to protect Uber drivers from harassment and assault from taxi drivers—an unfortunate occurrence during the early days of Uber. Government regulators were aware of the harassment and assaults Uber drivers suffered at the hands of taxi drivers, and the program was meant to try and protect Uber’s drivers. Notably, neither Mr. Kalanick nor anyone else at Uber has ever been accused of or charged with any offense related to Greyball by any enforcement agency.

Regarding false accusations that Mr. Kalanick directed or was aware of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or other US or foreign law with regards to Uber’s efforts to expand in Russia or elsewhere:

Regarding Uber’s attempted expansion into Russia, Mr. Kalanick’s role was limited to a trip to Russia that included a few meetings arranged by Uber’s policy and business development teams. Mr. Kalanick was asked for his involvement following Uber’s robust legal, policy, business development teams having vetted and approved the strategy and operations plans. Mr. Kalanick acted at all times lawfully and with the clear approval and authorization of Uber’s legal team. Furthermore, Mr. Kalanick is not aware of anyone acting on Uber’s behalf in Russia who engaged in any conduct that would have violated either Russian or U.S. law.