September 21, 2017
Uber Technologies, with its law firm O’Melveny & Myers, is studying its Asia operations as the Justice Department determines whether the company violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. According to sources, Uber already notified the department about questionable payments made by its Indonesian staff, and is working with its law firm to interview employees and examine foreign payment records. Potentially problematic activities took place in China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea, among other Asian countries.
Bloomberg reports that, among other things, the law firm “is reviewing a web of financial arrangements tied to the Malaysian government that may have influenced lawmakers there.” Last year, Uber “had a run-in with Indonesian police over the location of an office in Jakarta,” which led an employee to offer bribes that were listed on his expense reports.
The offending employee was fired and Uber’s head of the Indonesia business, Alan Jiang, was placed on a leave of absence. But, most crucially, “at least one senior member of the legal team at Uber initially decided not to report the incident to U.S. officials.” That’s important because, “the Justice Department can be more lenient when a company voluntarily discloses information.”
O’Melveny & Myers is also “investigating a corporate donation, announced in August 2016, of tens of thousands of dollars to the Malaysian Global Initiative and Creativity Centre, a government-backed entrepreneur hub.” A Malaysian pension fund invested $30 million in Uber, say sources, and “less than a year later, the Malaysian government passed national ride-hailing laws that were favorable to Uber and its peers,” with former Uber executives Emil Michael and Eric Alexander helping to negotiate the deals.
Alexander also had possession of the medical records of a rape victim in India, which “he regularly carried around with him for several months in 2015,” with the knowledge of Michael and former chief executive Travis Kalanick.
Uber is also under federal investigation in at least three cases, two involving software developed by the company “to gather data on competitors and deceive law enforcement officials conducting stings on Uber drivers.”