In an interview with ‘The Guardian’, Mark MacGann claimed to be responsible for part of the violations that Uber has committed in the past.
A few days after the scandal of the leaked documents of Uber, the person responsible for the information was revealed this Monday, 11. Public face of the company in Europe during a tumultuous period of expansion, Mark MacGann claimed to be the whistleblower behind the revelations about the inner workings of the transport app.
MacGann is a longtime European lobbyist who interacted with top global business and government leaders during his time at Uber between 2014 and 2016. He said he left the company after concluding that Uber’s culture did not allow for discussions about changing the way it worked. the way the company was run, which made him feel powerless in the face of situations, such as the protests of partner drivers in Europe. In addition, the lobbyist feared retaliation if he spoke out about the problems he encountered with the company.
Last week, MacGann leaked more than 124,000 company documents to the British newspaper. The Guardian, which shared the materials with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which helped lead the project. Called the “Uber Files,” the files span documents between 2013 and 2017 and reveal the company’s aggressive entry into cities around the world – while often challenging the reach of existing laws and regulations.
MacGann, 52, introduced himself in a video interview with the The Guardian published on Monday. As the lead lobbyist charged with driving Uber’s European expansion, MacGann said he bears responsibility for the company’s actions — actions the lobbyist now condemns, such as the way it has approached governments and the public with “decorated” visions of upward mobility and economic freedom for low-income drivers.
Exposing the company’s operation during those years – even communications that show its role in some of Uber’s most controversial practices – is its attempt to make amends, he said. “I was the one who spoke to the governments, I was the one who pressed this with the media, I was the one who told people they should change the rules because drivers would benefit and people would have a lot of economic opportunities,” he said.
“When that turned out not to be the case — because we actually sold a lie at the time, how was I going to have a clear conscience if I didn’t stand up and own up to contributing to the way people are being treated today?”
But MacGann ended up blaming the company for what he said was its willingness to “break every rule and use its money and its power, to make an impact, to destroy.”
Uber spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said “mistakes” made early in Uber’s history led to “one of the most infamous calculations in America’s corporate history” five years ago, which involved lawsuits, investigations and multiple leadership departures. executive.
“We do not and will not make excuses for past behavior that is clearly not in line with our current values,” she told the American newspaper. Washington Post. “Instead, we ask the public to judge us for what we’ve done in the last five years and what we’re going to do in the years to come.”
Regarding MacGann, however, Uber spokesman Noah Edwardsen said in a statement on Monday that “he is not in a position to speak credibly about Uber today.” He said “Mark only praised Uber when he left the company six years ago,” citing an outgoing email in which he said he was “a strong believer in Uber’s mission.”
MacGann is an Irishman who speaks fluent French and spent more than two decades lobbying for technology, telecommunications and financial services across Europe before joining Uber. He started working for the company as a consultant in the summer of 2014.
Months later, he was brought onto the team as chief lobbyist with a difficult task: courting governments in more than 40 countries across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. It was a role that put him at the center of power at a time of turmoil for the company. A business world still tethered by the rise of tech companies like Google and Facebook has seen Uber as the next big thing. Investors competed to get into companies and the best talent applied for executive positions in hopes of securing shares that could turn into mini-fortunes.
Uber was “the hottest ticket in town, and in some ways, on both the investor and political sides, people were almost falling all over themselves to meet with the company and hear what we had to offer.” said MacGann, who suddenly found he had personal access to world leaders and their advisers. It was an “intoxicating” experience, he said.
But the company faced resistance in several countries, mainly from taxi drivers who could not compete with the low fares offered by Uber, whose drivers in new cities were heavily subsidized, initially with millions of dollars in capital from investors. Protests broke out in Berlin, London and Paris. Local courts in Germany have restricted some of Uber’s services. MacGann was put in charge of a team responsible for lobbying governments to allow Uber to make inroads, sometimes in the face of legal or regulatory obstacles.
In media interviews and keynote speeches throughout his tenure at the company, MacGann declared that Uber was not “anti-regulation” but simply a “technology company” using data to match supply with demand — which is why, he says, argued, should not abide by the old regulatory models for the taxi industry.
Now, MacGann sums up Uber’s strategy as simply breaking into new markets and expanding as best it can, despite an awareness that it may be violating local laws.
“The mantra that people repeated from office to office was the mantra at the top,” MacGann said. “Don’t ask for permission. Just launch, rush, recruit drivers, go out, do the marketing, and quickly people will wake up and see what a great thing Uber is.”
Devon Spurgeon, spokesperson for Uber founder and then-CEO Travis Kalanick, said in a statement that “Uber’s expansion activities were led by more than a hundred leaders in dozens of countries around the world and across the globe.” times under direct supervision and with the full approval of Uber’s robust legal policy and compliance groups.” Kalanick helped create a business model that “required a change in the status quo, as Uber became a serious competitor in an industry where competition was historically prohibited,” he added.
In a statement sent to the The Postafter MacGann revealed his identity on Monday, Spurgeon said he would not comment on the matter.
“Uber Files” also puts MacGann, along with his former colleagues, in some of Uber’s heaviest business practices. They show him personally appealing to Emmanuel Macron, then France’s economy minister, after a local authority in the city of Marseille banned an Uber service in 2015 and engaging in an aggressive lobbying and influence campaign to try to solidify a foothold in Russia.
And MacGann played a role in conversations about anti-Uber protests that erupted in some European cities — sometimes involving physical attacks on Uber drivers — according to internal communications the lobbyist leaked.
In a January 2016 text message exchange, Kalanick called on his top men to organize a counter-protest in Paris and appeared to play down concerns “about taxi violence” against Uber drivers. “I think it’s worth it,” Kalanick wrote. “Violence guarantees success.”
Spurgeon said the former executive “never suggested that Uber should take advantage of violence at the expense of driver safety. Any accusation that Kalanick drove, engaged or was involved in any of these activities is completely false.” Hazelbaker, the spokeswoman for Uber, acknowledged past mistakes in the way drivers were treated, especially in the years Kalanick ran the company, but said no one, including Kalanick, wanted to see violence against Uber drivers.
MacGann had been part of this exchange of messages, as one of the voices raising security concerns. But emails from several months earlier show MacGann praising a 2015 corporate strategy to encourage media coverage of violence against Uber drivers in the Netherlands.
“There is no excuse for how the company has played with people’s lives,” MacGann said in a statement. “I am disgusted and ashamed to have participated in the trivialization of such violence.”
Angry cabbies who felt their livelihoods were threatened by Uber saw MacGann as the face of the company and sometimes took out their anger at him. He said he received death threats on Twitter and harassment at airports and train stations, and that taxi drivers followed him, recorded where he lived and posted pictures of him online with his children. “They needed someone to yell at. They needed someone to bully, someone to threaten,” MacGann said. “I became that person.”
In one incident, he said, a group of taxi protesters in Rome blocked a car taking him and a colleague away from a meeting with an adviser to the Italian prime minister. The harassment persisted even after he severed ties with Uber. In 2017, police were called after he said taxi drivers surrounded his car outside a train station in Brussels. MacGann said he doesn’t blame those who attacked him and shares his frustration with Uber’s business practices. He was dismayed that the company’s only reaction to threats against him was to assign him a bodyguard. “There was no change in behavior,” MacGann said. “No change in tactics. No change in tone.”
MacGann later received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, which a March 2019 medical report said was linked in part to the stress he experienced during his time at Uber.
Rachel Whetstone, then Uber’s head of communications and public policy, called MacGann “a wonderful leader” who helped the company recognize “the need for modern regulations that promote safety while increasing choice.” David Plouffe, then Uber’s head of global policy, called him “an excellent advocate for Uber on three continents.” Both have already left the company.
MacGann remained at Uber as a consultant until August 2016. In November of that year, he joined Russian telecommunications company VimpelCom, which several months earlier had reached an $835 million settlement over bribery allegations in the US and the Netherlands. He later opened his own company
But his time with Uber stayed with him long after his stint ended.
“I own what I did, but if the fact that I was trying to persuade governments, ministers, prime ministers, presidents and drivers turned out to be horribly, horribly wrong and false, then it’s up to me to go back and say, ‘I think made a mistake,'” MacGann told guardian. “To the extent that people want me to help, I want to play a role in trying to right this wrong.”