What we know about the “Uber Files”, this investigation which denounces the methods of the VTC giant
Tens of thousands of internal documents, text messages between Emmanuel Macron and officials of the Uber company, an impressive lobbying campaign… The « Uber Files », an investigation carried out by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) after the obtaining by the Guardian of 124,000 confidential documents, lifts the veil on the Californian company’s strategy for conquering new markets.
► An intense lobbying campaign
In 2011, Uber set out to conquer the French market. To do this, the ICIJ survey shows that the company has drawn up a table of several hundred personalities (parliamentarians, ministers, journalists, consumer associations), likely to support the deployment of VTCs in the cities of France.
This work is carried out jointly with Fipra, a service provider specializing in lobbying. At the same time, an important work of « belief » is undertaken in ministerial offices, coupled with a vast communication campaign aimed at the general public.
The arrival of Uber is badly perceived within the government. In 2014, the Thévenoud law threatens to drastically restrict the company’s activities, notably banning its UberPop service. Uber and Fipra then draft amendments to the text, entrusted to several deputies favorable to the carrier. A common and legal practice in France and Europe, used by most lobbies, NGOs or industrialists.
► Global lobbying
The documents show that this lobbying action reaches a planetary scale, intended to modify the regulations in various States. In the United States, Uber is said to have offered certain politicians assistance in their electoral campaign.
In 2016, a private meeting was held between Joe Biden and Travis Kalanick (ex-boss and co-founder of Uber), on the sidelines of the Davos forum. At the end of this meeting, the then American vice-president will declare, in front of the members participating in the forum, that Uber was going to “creating two million new jobs this year, giving them the freedom to work as many hours as they want”.
Among the group’s other strategic recruitments are former collaborators of US President Barack Obama, former Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and former Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. Other personalities have been courted, like Russian oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin. They would also have been offered share subscription warrants.
► The involvement of Emmanuel Macron
The Uber Files reveal that within the government of François Hollande, Emmanuel Macron supported the establishment of the Californian company in France. The investigation by the consortium of journalists reveals 17 text messages exchanged between the current president and Uber officials.
The former tenant of Bercy notably met the boss of the company at the time, Travis Kalanick, an interview that Mark MacGann, an Uber lobbyist describes as » spectacular » : » [Il] welcomed Uber in a remarkably warm, friendly and constructive atmosphere. »
Another element of questioning: messages between the former minister and Mark MacGann about a prefectural decree in Marseille suspending UberX in the city center. “I will look at this personallyresponds Emmanuel Macron. Pass me the facts and we decide by tonight. Let’s stay calm at this point. » A few days later, the prefect of Marseille eased this ban only to drivers who did not hold a VTC license.
► Bypass searches
The « Uber Files » also show how the company sought to thwart the investigations directed against them by the Fraud Prevention Department (DGCCRF) by setting up a “kill switch”a tool to bypass computers seized during searches and place the data out of the reach of investigators.
The potentially compromising element sheltering method was used 13 times between 2014 and 2015 in several countries including France, India, the Netherlands and Canada. Uber has acknowledged the existence of the tool, blaming its former CEO.
► Violence against drivers, a media weapon
According to The Guardian, Uber tried to exploit the violence of which its drivers were victims, to restore its image in the media. A tactic used in several European countries according to the revelations of the Consortium, in particular in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy.
The VTC company would have encouraged the drivers to complain of violence to the police, during overflows during protests by taxi drivers. In 2016, lobbyist Mark MacGann felt that obtaining photos of violence in Barcelona could be » very effective « . An internal document dated the same year suggested using these incidents to “put additional pressure on policy makers”.