Major leak reveals how Uber secretly lobbied politicians

11 Jul 2022

Image: © NYCStock/

Enda Kenny, Emmanuel Macron, Joe Biden, Benjamin Netanyahu and George Osborne were all lobbied by the ride-hailing giant, according to the Uber files.

A global investigation based on leaked files has revealed how Uber aggressively lobbied politicians across the world over a five-year period to gain strategic advantages in new markets.

More than 124,000 documents were leaked to The Guardian, exposing the ride-hailing tech giant’s sometimes ruthless techniques to expand globally. Called the Uber files, this information has been shared to media in 29 countries via the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Documents reveal that the California-headquartered company broke multiple national laws and taxi regulations, duped police and even encouraged violence against drivers. The leaked data covers operations in 40 countries between 2013 and 2017.

Politicians lobbied by Uber in that period include current US president Joe Biden, former Taoiseach Enda Kenny, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and former UK chancellor George Osborne.

But perhaps the most damning of the Uber files revelations is the company’s relationship with French president Emmanuel Macron, who was the country’s economy minister at the time.

Macron allowed Uber frequent and direct access to him and his staff, The Guardian reports, and went to great lengths to support the company’s expansion in France – including brokering a secret deal with Uber’s opponents in the French cabinet at the time.

Uber was also reported to have used a “kill switch” that cut access to its IT systems and blocked police from seeing data during raids on its offices in at least six countries, including France.

Uber and Ireland

Uber first began operations in Ireland in February 2014, but initially faced an impasse with the State’s taxi regulator, the National Transport Authority, which refused to tweak rules that would allow Uber to operate in Ireland more freely.

According to The Irish Times, data from the Uber files reveals how the company attempted to “build goodwill” with the Irish Government during the St Patrick’s Day ministerial visits to the US in 2015, which it saw as an opportunity to bypass the National Transport Authority.

In an attempt to get political leverage with then Taoiseach Kenny and Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe, Uber head of public policy for Ireland and the UK Andrew Byrne told colleagues that he was considering opening a service centre in Ireland.

An external lobbyist even advised Byrne that opening the centre outside Dublin would be a “positive political decision” because Kenny was from Co Mayo.

In response to the Uber Files, the company has said that it “will not make excuses for past be behaviour that is clearly not in line with our present values”.

“Instead, we ask the public to judge us by what we’ve done over the last five years and what we will do in the years to come.”

The company claims it has transformed since a change in leadership in 2017, when co-founder Travis Kalanick was replaced as CEO by Dara Khosrowshahi, and that more than 90pc of current employees have joined Uber since then.

A spokesperson for former CEO Kalanick said he “never authorised any actions or programmes that would obstruct justice in any country”.

“The reality was that Uber’s expansion initiatives were led by over a hundred leaders in dozens of countries around the world and at all times under the direct oversight and with the full approval of Uber’s robust legal, policy and compliance groups.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic