Leaked documents reveal Uber's secretive relationship with top politicians
Macron held at least four meetings with former Uber head Travis Kalanick
Over 100,000 leaked documents revealed ridesharing giant Uber's secretive relationship with some of Europe's top politicians, including French President Emmanuel Macron while he was serving as the minister for the economy.
Over 124,000 documents that included more than 83,000 emails from between 2013 and 2017 show that Uber's controversial former head Travis Kalanick was on a first-name basis with Macron as the company attempted to launch operations in France, a move that sparked widespread violent protests from the country's taxi companies and drivers, according to reporting from BBC, which obtained the leaked documents.
The two first met in October 2014, shortly after Macron was appointed minister for the economy, to discuss Uber's launch in the country. Macron saw Uber as a potential new source of jobs and was enthusiastic about helping the company, soon becoming one of Uber's most dependable champions within the French government.
That first meeting was summarized by Uber lobbyist Mark MacGann in an email, who said the talk was that Uber lobbyist Mark MacGann described the meeting as "spectacular. Like I've never seen," adding that "we'll dance soon."
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The meeting was one of at least four Macron had with Kalanick as the company was attempting to get off the ground in France, sparking controversy with its UberPop service that allowed unlicensed drivers to offer rides at low prices.
Violent protests broke out over the service while the courts and parliament banned it, but Macron continued to work with Uber in an attempt to pass new laws that would be friendly to the ride-sharing company.
"Uber will provide an outline for a regulatory framework for ridesharing. We will connect our respective teams to start working on a feasible proposal that could become the formal framework in France," read an email from Kalanick to Macron.
"[I] will gather everybody next week to prepare the reform and correct the law," Macron later texted to Kalanick.
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UberPop was suspended in France the same day, but a few months later, Macron signed off on a decree that relaxed the licensing requirements for Uber drivers.
Another email from Uber to Macron told the future president that the company was "extremely grateful" for his help, saying the "openness and welcome we receive is unusual in government-industry relations."
"His functions naturally led him to meet and interact with many companies engaged in the sharp shift which came out during those years in the service sector, which had to be facilitated by unlocking administrative and regulatory hurdles," a spokesperson for Macron told the BBC.
The documents also show the lengths Uber was willing to go to avoid regulators, including a kill switch that would lock police out of company computers in the event that one of their buildings was raided by law enforcement.
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Kalanick was eventually forced out by shareholders in 2017, while the company has since tried to distance itself from its previous way of doing business, telling the BBC that its "past behaviour wasn't in line with present values" and it is a "different company" today.
Dara Khosrowshahi, Kalanick's replacement, has since been tasked with transforming every aspect of how Uber operates" and has "installed the rigorous controls and compliance necessary to operate as a public company."
Kalanick has denied taking any actions to obstruct justice in any country, with a spokesperson telling the BBC that Uber "used tools that protect intellectual property and the privacy of their customers" and that "these fail-safe protocols do not delete any data or information, and were approved by Uber's legal and regulatory departments."