Days after Chief Executive Officer of Uber Technologies Travis Kalanick stepped down from his post as investor pressure mounted, the company has now reportedly hired a law firm to investigate if bribes were paid to obtain the medical records of the Delhi woman executive who was raped by an Uber driver in 2014.
News agency Reuters reported today that Uber Technologies Inc has hired law firm O'Melveny & Myers LLP, which is in the early stages of the probe. The development came following a mismatch in the statements of some serving and former employees on how Uber obtained the medical records, the report cited sources as saying. The review will focus in part on accusations from some current and former employees that bribes were involved, two people familiar with the matter said.
The firm is also exploring whether former Chief Executive Travis Kalanick knew how Uber came into possession of the records, the person added.
Members of Uber's board were briefed about the investigation in recent days, shortly before five major Uber investors sent a letter to Kalanick to demand his resignation, said the person. The probe was likely one reason the board turned against Kalanick, who stepped down on Tuesday, the first person said.
The investigation is ongoing and has not reached any conclusions on whether Uber improperly obtained the records.
The rape survivor from Delhi sued Uber last week, accusing the ride service operator of improperly obtaining and sharing her medical records. The suit said that shortly after the rape occurred, former Uber Asia chief Eric Alexander "met with Delhi police and intentionally obtained plaintiff's confidential medical records." Media reports had earlier said that Alexander was terminated following reports that Alexander was already in India at the time of the incident and obtained the medical records of the victim and ran his own parallel investigation. The entire focus of the probe was to demolish the victim’s charge.
Despite the case being a criminal investigation, Alexander kept the documents for over a year before other executives allegedly got to know of it and destroyed it. In that time, Alexander showed the report to CEO Travis Kalanick and SVP Emil Michael, apart from numerous other executives, who tried to poke holes in the woman’s claims of being raped by her Uber driver.
Alexander, through spokeswoman Heather Wilson, denied paying any bribes and said that the files containing the victim's records had been obtained through appropriate, legal methods. The rapist was convicted in 2015.
The rape of an Uber passenger in Delhi by the driver had led to massive protests and created a crisis for the company’s operations in India. The company was banned by the Delhi government, and prompted all ride-hailing companies to undertake more stringent background checks. Even Ola faced the heat with the city government eventually banning all app-based cab aggregators from the national capital.
Kalanick, 40, announced late on Tuesday that he was resigning as chief executive, though he would remain on the board of Uber. He said he had accepted "the investors' request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight."
Confidence in Kalanick had been strained this year by claims of sexual harassment in the company and a lawsuit accusing Uber of benefiting from trade secrets stolen from self-driving car technology from Alphabet Inc's Waymo.