Uber’s Year of Reckoning

2017 has been a year of upheaval and reckoning for the “Sharing Economy’s” greatest disruptor and biggest badboy – Uber.


Uber began the year with a $20 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commision to resolve charges that it misled prospective drivers with exaggerated earning claims and claims about financing through its Vehicle Solutions Program.

Uber lost approximately 500,000 users after they deleted the Uber app in response to a #DeleteUber campaign due to CEO Travis Kalanick’s association with President Trump.  Kalanick promptly resigned from Trumps business advisory council.

Former Uber engineer Susan Fowler publishes a blog post Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber detailing sexual harassment and discrimination and corporate indifference to both.

Investors Mitch & Freada Kapor call out Uber’s management in an open letter.

Uber’s outsize success in terms of growth of market share, revenues and valuation are impressive, but can never excuse a culture plagued by disrespect, exclusionary cliques, lack of diversity, and tolerance for bullying and harassment of every form.

Alphabet’s self-driving car subsidiary Waymo sues Uber alleging it stole its trade secrets by acquiring Otto, a self-driving technology company founded by Anthony Levandowski, the former Waymo employee who wrongfully took with him 14,000 Waymo documents.  Levandowski has been fired and taken the 5th amendment privilege in this case.  The Justice Department is now investigating whether Uber engaged in corporate espionage.

The New York Times reports on Uber’s “Greyball tool” which enables them to block city officials from using the service in areas in where Uber is banned, which has since triggered a federal criminal investigation.

CEO Travis Kalanick caught on video yelling at an Uber driver who complained about falling prices. “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. . . . They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!”  Kalanick was forced to issue an apology and said he intended to get “leadership help”.


News leaked of a secret program that Uber internally called “Hell” that allowed the company to spy on its rival Lyft (i) to determine the geographic allocation of Lyft drivers and send cars in areas under-served by Lyft and (ii) uncover drivers working for both companies and to provide incentives for them to drive with Uber instead.  The FBI is investigating the matter, while a civil action by an affected driver was dismissed.

Class action lawsuit alleges that Uber’s upfront pricing app was used as part of “an  active, extensive, methodical scheme … to defrad drivers“, as the app based fares on taking longer routes but paid drivers based real-life shorter routes.

Uber agreed to pay drivers in New York City approximately $45 million after admitting it underpaid them for more than two years by taking a larger cut of fares than it was entitled. The average payout per driver is expected to be about $900.

An investigation into sexual harassment led by former Attorney General Eric Holder triggered by Susan Fowler’s blog post leads to over twenty employees being fired.

Report emerges that Uber secretly tagged users’ phones even after deletion of the app, which led to a confrontation with Apple CEO Tim Cook where he threatened to kick it out of the App Store.

Uber, Kalanick and other executives are sued by a woman who was raped by a company driver in India. The woman alleges that her personal medical records were illegally obtained and shared within the company.

Kalanick takes an indefinite leave of absence and then resigns as CEO.


The Justice Department launches an investigation as to whether Uber violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act with payments made to officials in Asia.

Uber enters privacy consent decree with FTC  stemming in part from Uber’s infamous “godview program” that tracked customers in real time. Agrees to implement a comprehensive privacy program to remedy deceiving consumers by failing to monitor employee access to consumer personal information and by failing to reasonably secure sensitive consumer data stored in the cloud.

A report on internal emails show Uber managers in Singapore were aware of an April 2016 recall on Honda’s Vezel SUV, but continued to rent the cars to drivers without fixing the defect. Honda recalled the car because it could catch on fire. 

A California class-action lawsuit alleges that “Uber has done everything possible to continue using low-cost, woefully inadequate background checks on drivers and has failed to monitor drivers for any violent or inappropriate conduct after they are hired,” thus creating a system “for bad actors to gain access to vulnerable victims.”

The city of London refuses to renew Uber’s license.

Former Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi takes over as Uber CEO.


Colorado regulators slapped Uber with an $8.9 million penalty for allowing 57 people with past criminal or motor vehicle offenses to drive for the company.

Uber reveals it paid off hackers who gained access to 143 million customers’ data in 2016, but did not file a data breach notice nor inform the FTC while it was under investigation.  Uber’s Chief Security Officer is promptly fired. Congress, the EU, multiple state attorney generals and are investigating the matter.  The state of Washington and the City of Chicago have already filed suit and class action lawsuits are expected to multiply.  Uber’s