It looks like there’s more trouble round the corner for Uber. Reuters is reporting that the U.S. Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation into the company’s controversial “greyball program” which helped it sidestep law enforcement officials and regulators.
The existence of the program was made public in early March following an explosive report from The New York Times which explained that Uber developed the system to prevent certain individuals that it believed presented a threat to its service or driving from hailing a ride. Rather than the regular app, they were served up fake cars to prevent them using it.
Users that fell into that category included regulators and law enforcement staff, who had used the service to gather data about Uber or detain drivers when it was operating in legal grey areas. Portland is one place where Uber had been restricted, and the city’s officials last week said they may subpoena Uber for details of how Greyball was used there.
Since the original Times report was published, Uber has said that it has ceased the program but the potential for this investigation could dredge up further details of how it operated, and also cause more drama for Uber at a time when it is not short on corporate headaches.
Just this year alone, Uber has commissioned a sexual discrimination investigation after former engineer Susan Fowler went public with her experiences inside the company, while CEO Travis Kalanick was caught on video blasting an Uber driver who complained about pay rates. To his credit Kalanick, who also created negative headlines when he (briefly) joined U.S. President Donald Trump’s business advisory council, has said that he is seeking to hire a COO to help helm Uber’s business after he admitted that he needs to “change as a leader and grow up.”