India rape case: Uber hires law firm to probe how its officials got medical records
Privately held Uber has grown from startup to a global ride service valued at $68 billion in less than a decade.
Uber Technologies Inc has hired a law firm to investigate how it obtained the medical records of an Indian woman who was raped by an Uber driver in 2014. The review will focus in part on accusations from some current and former employees that bribes were involved, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The law firm O'Melveny & Myers LLP, which is in the early stages of the probe, was hired by the ride service after employees gave contradictory accounts of how Uber obtained the medical records, one of the people said.
The firm is also exploring whether former Chief Executive Travis Kalanick knew how Uber came into possession of the records, the person added.
Kalanick through a spokesman declined to comment. Uber also declined to comment, and O'Melveny & Myers did not respond to a request for comment. Members of Uber's board were briefed about the investigation in recent days, shortly before five major Uber investors sent a letter to Kalanick to demand his resignation, said the person. The probe was likely one reason the board turned against Kalanick, who stepped down on Tuesday, the first person said.
The investigation is ongoing and has not reached any conclusions on whether Uber improperly obtained the records. Reuters has no evidence that bribery occurred.
The rape victim sued Uber last week, accusing the ride service operator of improperly obtaining and sharing her medical records. The suit said that shortly after the rape occurred, former Uber Asia chief Eric Alexander "met with Delhi police and intentionally obtained plaintiff's confidential medical records."
Alexander, through spokeswoman Heather Wilson, denied paying any bribes and said that the files containing the victim's records had been obtained through appropriate, legal methods.
A Delhi police spokesman did not answer multiple phone calls from Reuters to seek comment. The rapist was convicted in 2015.
According to a person familiar with conversations between Kalanick and Alexander, the two executives had discussed obtaining the victim's records because they suspected the rape might have been fabricated by an Uber rival to damage the company.
Another person said Alexander showed the medical files to colleagues in New Delhi more than once.
Wilson denied that Alexander had discussed or shared the records with colleagues. She said that Alexander believed the victim was raped and never expressed the view that it was a set up. Uber fired Alexander earlier this month.
Kalanick, 40, announced late on Tuesday that he was resigning as chief executive, though he would remain on the board of Uber. He said he had accepted "the investors' request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight."
Privately held Uber has grown from startup to a global ride service valued at $68 billion in less than a decade, driven by Kalanick, who set the tone of a company that challenged laws and norms to succeed.
Confidence in Kalanick had been strained this year by claims of sexual harassment in the company and a lawsuit accusing Uber of benefiting from trade secrets stolen from self-driving car technology from Alphabet Inc's Waymo.
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