Uber execs in court on two continents
Looking for a job that pays astonishingly well and allows you to spend a lot of time in courtrooms? There are some obvious career paths: Lawyer, Supreme Court judge, expert witness.
Now you can add another to that list: international Uber executive.
This week, senior Uber execs on two continents are in court as a consequence of alleged lawbreaking on behalf of their employer.
In France, a verdict is expected tomorrow in the trial of two senior Uber executives accused of ignoring a court order to close down the country’s branch of the UberPop service.
Meanwhile, in India, the President of Uber India and the GM for Uber North India have been ordered to appear in front of a judge after the company allegedly reinstated surge pricing after being ordered to stop.
Uber drivers have long been at risk of having their cars impounded in markets where the service is illegal. Likewise, Uber as a corporate entity is currently facing countless lawsuits over its appalling treatment of drivers and customers. Then, of course, there is the constant perp-walk of drivers accused of assault, theft, rape and even murder.
The new enthusiasm by foreign courts for prosecuting Uber executives personally is indicative of two things: Firstly the obvious fact that the company’s lawbreaking comes from the very top. This isn’t a barrel with a few bad apples, this is a barrel seemingly designed from the first slat of wood to attract bad fruit and somehow make it more putrid. (All the while hiring millions of dollars in lobbyists and private detectives to scupper barrel hygiene laws.)
The second is that senior execs, until now, haven’t really given too much of a shit when their drivers or passengers have been slung behind bars or beaten to a bloody pulp. Uber is, after all, just a “platform”. The human victims aren’t employees or customers but “partners” and “users” and “numbers on a spreadsheet.”
Lawmakers in Europe realised back in 2015 that the best chance of making Uber change its ways comes from going after the fancy suited execs -- the people Uber needs to hire and retain if it’s to have any chance of continuing to grow. Now lawmakers in India seem to have caught on to that notion, summoning not just the two most senior execs in the country, but also Travis Kalanick himself (odds of him showing up: roughly a billionth of a percent of zero.)
Whether or not the strategy works and the company actually stops being so unapologetically awful remains to be seen. But the deterrent to new executive hiring certainly seems to be having an effect. There’s a good reason why the company can’t hire a CEO in China and is struggling to recruit senior executives across Europe: If you think the French and Indian legal systems are bad, try getting hauled away by the Chinese.
And good luck if the company ever wants to hire a CEO for its Saudi operations. How many lashes for surge pricing? How many hands lopped off for incomplete background checks?