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)

Holder report recommended firing SVP of Business Emil Michael

Business Insider reported that Eric Holder’s report recommended that Uber’s SVP of Business, Emil Michael, leave the company. BI noted that this recommendation was, for whatever reason, not included in the version of the Holder report available to the public. But, consistent with BI’s reporting, Michael left Uber in June 2017.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had been especially close to Michael. BI characterized Michael as Kalanick’s “wingman.”

Kalanick defended Otto founder Anthony Levandowski

Against the advice of then-General Counsel Salle Yoo and without support from then-Chief Business Officer Emil Michael, Uber then-CEO Travis Kalanick pushed forward with the acquisition of Otto, a startup for self-driving trucks.

Bloomberg reports multiple reasons why Kalanick could have been concerned about the deal and Levandowski’s tactics.

One, Otto consisted primarily of ex-Google staff, and Uber’s acquisition of Otto angered Google leaders, including co-founder Larry Page.

Two, before the deal closed, Uber’s investigators learned that Levandowski had possessed five disks of data from Google’s driverless effort including “source code, design files, laser files, engineering documents and software related to Google self-driving cars.” Uber’s investigators also knew that Levandowski’s claims to have destroyed the disks could not be verified. Kalanick said he did not read the investigators’ report.

Three, Levandowski asked Uber to protect him from legal attacks from Google, and Kalanick agreed to do so.

Even when Google sued Uber over the acquisition, and Levandowski invoked the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination to decline to cooperate with litigation, Kalanick continued to support Levandowski, claiming he would eventually be vindicated.

Bloomberg further reports Kalanick calling Levandowski his “brother from another mother.”

Business Insider adds that Kalanick had vouched for Levandowski. Meanwhile, Emil Michael, then Uber’s head dealmaker, did not support the acquisition because he thought the price was too high.

Escort bar visit

In 2014, then-CEO Travis Kalanick, then-SVP of Business Emil Michael, and others visited a “karaoke” bar in Seoul, Korea which was staffed by “escorts.” Each woman was labeled with a number so customers could pick them out.

Emil Michael later attempted to cover up the visit.

Proposed to “dig up dirt” on reporters

Uber Senior Vice President of Business Emil Michael proposed spending $1 million to target reporters who wrote unfavorable stories about Uber.  In particular, Emil proposed to hire researchers and journalists who would publish unflattering research about the reporters’ personal lives.

Coverage from The Verge.