When you’re a company facing almost as many federal investigations as a crime syndicate, who better to come in to run your legal team than a former Justice Department official?
That may have been the question new Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi was asking when thinking about who to pick to help navigate his ride-sharing service through the murky legal waters it’s now sailing in.
With Uber the subject of not one, not two, not three, but at least five federal investigations and a whole slew of lawsuits, Tony West, the former general counsel at PepsiCo and a senior Justice Department official in the Obama Administration, has his work cut out for him.
The most valuable privately held company in the United States at the moment is currently under federal investigation for potentially violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act; for developing software to spy on drivers for competing ride-sharing services; and for using software to allow its drivers to evade law enforcement in jurisdictions where it was not permitted to operate. Bloomberg News recently reported that the company was also facing probes into price-fixing and its involvement in the potential theft of trade secrets from Alphabet.
That kind of casework would be a mountain for any legal eagle, but West also has to contend with the trade secrets battle between Uber and Alphabet subsidiary Waymo.
In a statement to Uber’s staff obtained by TechCrunch, chief executive Khosrowshahi noted that “finding a strong legal partner has been one of my top priorities.”
Khosrowshahi praised West’s experience heading up an international team of lawyers and wrote that West’s experience as a former federal prosecutor and senior Department of Justice official meant that he was “well equipped to handle the investigations into our past practices.”
West fills a slot that was vacant since Salle Yoo, the company’s previous legal officer, resigned in early September, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
In the letter to Uber employees, Khosrowshahi praised Yoo for her service:
I want to close by thanking Salle for all of her hard work in helping build Uber into the incredible company that touches so many drivers and riders all over the world. She has been a great partner as I’ve gotten up to speed over the past (almost) two months. I especially appreciate all that Salle is doing to ensure that Tony’s transition is as smooth as possible.
Please join me in congratulating Tony and wishing Salle well in her post-Uber life (I’d imagine a vacation for her is in order!).