Why Uber may see a fresh flood of departures in the not-too-distant future

Last year, we told you about the employees at Uber who were seemingly handcuffed to the company, noting that those whose shares were vested can’t afford to quit.

Startup employees typically have to exercise their options within 90 days of leaving a company or else lose them, and given Uber’s stratospheric valuation, that cost had simply grown too daunting.

By February of this year, Uber had struck on one way to give restless employees a way to cash out, according to Bloomberg. Those who work at the company for at least four years can sell as much as 10 percent of their shares, though to ensure they don’t rush for the exits, they are paid out over many months and have to stay at Uber during that period.

Now, according to a new report in The Information, longtime employees wanting to move on with their lives have another path, thanks to a change in how Uber handles stock options. Specifically, says The Information’s sources, Uber is dropping the requirement that employees who quit must exercise their options within 90 days or lose them; instead, the employees will have as much as several years to exercise the options after they’ve left the company.

It’s a major turnaround, and it will impact roughly 10 percent of Uber’s roughly 12,000 employees who’ve been with the company for least three years, says the report. (As it notes, in 2014, the company began to issue restricted stock units, or RSUs, instead of traditional stock options.)

Given the seemingly endless turmoil surrounding the company, it’s probably fair to assume that many of those people will, in fact, hightail it despite the morale-boosting gesture on Uber’s part. While they may represent a comparatively small percentage of Uber’s overall employee base, presumably these are fairly key employees, too, given their institutional knowledge of Uber.

They may have company on their way out. In separate but related news, Recode is reporting this morning that Uber’s internal investigation into a former engineer’s claims of sexual harassment and general workplace hostility will conclude by the end of the month, and that two key executives who’ve come under scrutiny as part of that investigation — board director Ryan Graves and CTO Thuan Pham — may be fired as a result.

Several other C-level executives have also parted ways with the company during its very troubled 2017. Uber’s head of public policy and communications, Rachel Whestone, quietly left in April. Uber president Jeff Jones quit one month earlier, citing differences over “beliefs and approach to leadership.” Uber’s SVP of engineering, Amit Singhal, was asked to leave even earlier in the year after it was learned he didn’t disclose that he’d left his previous employer, Google, over disputed sexual harassment allegations. Ed Baker, who served as Uber’s VP of product and growth for three years beginning in 2013, also left in March of this year.