Revealed in court: 100% cast iron evidence of how Uber lies to secretly investigate and smear its critics
I've been meaning to write about this all week, but the weirdness of Brogan BamBrogan got in the way.
A week or so ago, a judge ordered the release of documents that show beyond all reasonable doubt that Uber hired a CIA-linked private investigation firm to investigate the personal and professional life of Portland attorney Andrew Schmidt and his client, Spencer Meyer. Meyer had recently filed a lawsuit against Uber and Kalanick.
The emails, some of which are embedded below courtesy of the Bangor Daily News, show Uber executives contracting the investigations firm, Ergo, to dig into the backround of Meyer and Schmidt.
The plan begins with Ergo contacting colleagues and friends of Schmidt, and lying about the purpose of their emails and calls, in order to trick them into revealing damaging information which could form the basis of further investigation. Kalanick had previously denied that Uber was aware of any kind of secret investigation against Meyer and Schmidt.
Worse, the emails also show attempts by Uber and Ergo to encrypt the emails to avoid problems "from a discovery perspective." That is, to ensure that they couldn't ever be uncovered by a court or law enforecement.
Unfortunately for Uber and Ergo, the judge ordered that the unencrypted versions of the messages be handed over and made public. An Ergo executive also admitted in court that the company, working on behalf of Uber, had deliberately lied to find dirt on Meyer and Schmidt.
The story has received a fair amount of attention in the media, with some commentators expressing shock that Uber would plot to secretly smear its critics. Ho ho ho. Those with longer memories are shocked for a different reason: Finally we have cast iron proof of something we've known for a very long time, but that the company has always flatly denied. That Uber was, and is, willing to hire private investigators to secretly investigate and smear its critics.
Two years ago, Buzzfeed reported that an Uber executive had boasted of a secret plan to "go after" critical journalists including Pando's Sarah Lacy. At the time, Uber's friends and investors like Jason Calacanis insisted that the plan was simply a hypothetical, and that Uber would never, ever do anything so sleezy as to hire private investiagtors to secretly go after critics. CEO Travis Kalanick apologised for his executive's behavior and insisted that such a smear campaign -- which totally hadn't happened, remember -- did not represent the company's values. He promised Uber would learn from the experience.
Some close to Uber went even further, trying to spin the suggestion that Sarah was just attention seeking and had possibly made the whole thing up.
This month's court filings prove that Uber would, and did, attempt to secretly investigate critics by hiring a CIA-linked investigations firm to lie and cheat in order to find dirt for a smear campaign. More alarmingly, the Meyer and Schmidt investigation a full year after Uber denied an opposition research campagin against Sarah and Pando and promised to learn from its behavior. We now know all it learned was to encrypt emails and use even more sleazy private detectives.
The obvious question is how many others has the company gone after that we don't yet know about?
Strangely, the same investors who were so quick to defend Kalanick and Uber back then have fallen silent now. Perhaps they too have been distracted by the BamBrogan story -- another story that involves claims of scumminess by Uber investors and pals of Travis Kalanick.
What's the word? Oh right, cesspool.