For any company going through an FCPA investigation, perhaps the most dreaded question is “where else?” as it imports there may be corruption issues in other locations, literally across the globe. For Uber Technologies, however, the recurring question is “what else?” and it was once again brought to mind when the latest negative revelation from Uber was released. This time it was a payment to hackers who broke and stole confidential data of some 57 million Uber customers and drivers.
In 2016, the company was hacked with customers’ credit card, password, and other information being stolen. Potentially worse was the theft of Uber drivers (recall Uber does not classify them as employees) state driver’s license numbers and other sensitive employment information. This is on top of its current legal problems including a potential ban of Uber in London, the alleged theft of trade secrets over driverless car technology from Alphabet’s Waymo, its Greyball software program, designed to evade regulatory review, and ongoing FCPA investigation(s).
Now is the admission that not only was the company hacked and did not report it, but that it paid the hackers $100,000 to destroy the data they illegally obtained. Of course, Uber did not disclose any of this information to the public, its drivers, or regulators. Uber did, however, disclose this information to the potential investor Softbank. Moreover, the payment was authorized at the highest level of the company, by former CEO Travis Kalanick. Also, involved in the decision were Uber’s chief information security officer and at least the deputy general counsel, both of whom have reported by terminated for their role in the affair.
Obviously, paying ransom (blackmail) is a dangerous road to go down as it only encourages the illegal conduct going forward. Uber reportedly obtained confidentiality agreements with the hackers, but this related to only the disclosure of information and their hack. The current CEO of Uber Dara Khosrowshahi, who replaced Kalanick must navigate these disclosures as his term extends out, as they soon will become his problems. The Man From FCPA wonders what else is there for Uber to admit?