EU’s top court said France can bring criminal charges against Uber managers

The Court of Justice of the European Union (Europe’s highest court) ruled that France can bring criminal proceedings against Uber. Uber had argued that its service was an “information society service,” but the Court said that Uber is a transport service. The difference was important: A new national law regulating an information society service would require that a member state (such as France) notify the Commission, and the absence of such notification would make the law invalid and unenforceable. But regulation of transport requires no such notification, making the law valid and enforceable.

Uber responded by saying the service at issue, UberPOP, was already discontinued in France.

Female engineers sued, claiming unequal pay and benefits

Three Latina software engineers sued Uber, alleging that they, as women and people of color, were paid less than white male and Asian colleagues. They sought to represent all engineers similarly suited in a class action.

Uber ultimately agreed to settle the suit for $10 million. As part of the settlement, Uber agreed to enhance its systems for compensation and reviews, to regularly report diversity metrics, and to assure that company executives review diversity efforts twice a year.

Holder report offered devastating critique

In the midst of a series of scandals, Uber retained former US Attorney General Eric Holder to review the company’s practices and problems. The report recommended forty-seven changes, including restructuring Uber’s board of directors, restricting alcohol and drug use at company events, and firing then SVP of business Emil Michael .

Reviewing the version of the Holder report available to the public, one compliance consultant described the findings as “one of the most remarkable discussions of a complete workplace culture disaster that has ever been rendered for a multi-billion business.” The consultant continued: “If you changed some of the business and legal language, you might well think you were reading a report on Animal House.” (quote from New Yorker)

Uber backup drivers fell short in safety functions

CityLab reported widespread shortcomings of the backup drivers who were responsible for supervising Uber’s self-driving cars. One, it is unclear whether humans can do a good job supervising machines that work well most of the time — requiring intense concentration to identify the occasional error, when most of the time, there are tempting distractions. Uber’s 8 to 10-hour shifts, with one 30 minute lunch break, were grueling — and drivers were often assigned to repeat the same driving “loops” which likely made the task particularly dull for drivers. Additional challenges included working entirely alone (without other humans) (after Uber removed a second staff person from each vehicle), and, CityLab reported, the vehicles’ frequent hard braking.

Meanwhile, CityLab spoke with multiple drivers who were dismissed from Uber for safety infractions, including using a phone while a vehicle was in motion — undermining any suggestion that all safety drivers do as instructed.

Jeff Jones quit, citing differences over “beliefs and approach to leadership”

Jeff Jones quit Uber in March 2017 after less than a year as President of the company. He explained his departure in a statement:

It is now clear, however, that the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber, and I can no longer continue as president.

Jones had previously served as the Chief Marketing Officer at Target.

Commenting on Jones’ departure, then-CEO Travis Kalanick remarked that “It is unfortunate that [Jones’ departure] was announced through the press.”

VP of Product and Growth Ed Baker resigned

Ed Baker, who served as Uber’s VP of Product and Growth, resigned after more than three years at Uber. Others at Uber had complained about his behavior. Recode explained:

For example, one person anonymously tipped off board member Arianna Huffington — who is one of the people conducting a wider-ranging investigation into sexism and sexual harassment at the company — via an email that Baker had engaged in a sexual encounter with another employee.

Specifically, said sources, Baker was seen “making out” at an internal Uber event held in Miami three years ago, which was seen by some employees. There was no suggestion of any sexual harassment on his part and the encounter was apparently consensual.

Fired SVP of Engineering Amit Sighal over allegations of sexual harassment

Amit Sighal joined Uber in January 2017 as SVP of Engineering. The next month, Uber asked him to leave. The stated reason was that he reportedly failed to disclose to Uber a “credible” sexual harassment allegation made against him while at Google.

Sighal had previously worked at Google where he was a “Google Fellow” (a prestigious and limited position) and served as the head of Google’s core search ranking team. Some speculated that he left Google due to the same sexual harassment allegation that caused concern at Uber.

Details from Quartz

Morale dropped during Holder investigation

Business Insider reports that as Eric Holder investigated activities at Uber, employee morale dropped. His investigation included interviewing employees and reading through emails and chat records. BI says morale was “went from low to ‘rock bottom'” quoting one former executive, who added that “People were confused, disappointed, angry.”

Salle Yoo demanded $100 million when leaving Uber, got most of it

Business Insider reports that when then-General Counsel Salle Yoo prepared to leave Uber, she sought a $100 million severance package, entailing the repurchase of her Uber shares. Travis Kalanick thought that amount was excessive, but BI says the final amount was “tens of millions” although less than 2/3 of her requested amount.

BI reported Yoo grounding her demand in thoughts about gender:

Yoo thought it was only fair because she had seen male executives ask for huge exit packages and get them. She had spent her career at Uber encouraging women to lean in. So she took her own advice, opened her negotiations with Kalanick by shooting high and held her breath.