With a new CEO Not Named Travis finally on board, Uber is totally set to start rebuilding its reputation after a summer of scandal. All it needs is two weeks without any bad news — for example, that the Department of Justice is taking “preliminary steps to investigate whether managers at Uber Technologies Inc. violated a U.S. law against foreign bribery.”
That’s the bombshell takeaway from a new Wall Street Journal report, which alleges that Uber may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The FCPA makes it illegal for a US person or company to bribe a foreign government for favorable treatment. The WSJ doesn’t know which country (or countries!) may have been the recipient of bribes, but given Uber’s rapid expansion and general disregard for the rules, the list of possible places is nearly endless.
This isn’t the first bad news Uber has had from the government. A separate investigation is reportedly running into a program called Greyball, which Uber used to evade regulators in cities where it was operating against local regulations.
Under former CEO Travis Kalanick, Uber expanded at speed, but left a trail of destruction and bad PR in its wake. It frequently moved into a city before it was allowed to by local regulation, started up with low cost to get the local population on board, and then waged a public publicity battle to get its service legalized to some degree.
In the process, it would frequently be operating on the edge of the law. Because of its drivers’ status as contractors, rather than employees, it would be drivers having their cars seized, so Uber was able to conduct its business with little consequence.