Controversy-battered Uber hires top legal officer

Uber board member Arianna Huffington earlier this month blamed a “burnout culture” for fueling sexism at the world’s leading smartphone-summoned ride sharing service. (AFP)
Updated 28 October 2017

Controversy-battered Uber hires top legal officer

SAN FRANCISCO: Uber on Friday said it has hired a new top legal officer as the ride-sharing star battles controversy in the workplace as well as on the streets.
Tony West will begin working at San Francisco-based Uber next month, leaving a post as chief legal officer at Pepsi, Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said in an email to employees, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.
West’s experience as a former federal prosecutor and a senior Department of Justice official while Barack Obama was US president make him “well equipped to handle the investigations into our past practices,” according to Khosrowshahi.
Uber’s image has been dented by a litany of controversies about a cut-throat workplace and unscrupulous tactics with regulators and rivals.
Uber board member Arianna Huffington earlier this month blamed a “burnout culture” for fueling sexism at the world’s leading smartphone-summoned ride sharing service.
Uber launched an “urgent investigation” early this year after an engineer who worked at the company until late 2016 alleged that her manager made sexual advances shortly after she joined.
She wrote in a blog post that she complained to more senior managers and the company’s human resources department, but was told that it was the man’s “first offense” and that they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing a “high performer.”
The woman said she met other female Uber engineers who said they had experienced similar harassment.
Uber hired former attorney general Eric Holder to review workplace conditions after the allegations. The probe resulted in firings and an outline for needed changes.
West will be starting at Uber the same month a trial is to begin in a civil suit filed by Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Google-parent Alphabet.
The case stems from a lawsuit filed in February by Waymo, which claimed former manager Anthony Levandowski took a trove of technical data with him when he left to launch a competing venture that went on to become Otto and was later acquired by Uber.
Waymo argued in the lawsuit that a “calculated theft” of its technology netted Otto a buyout of more than $500 million and enabled Uber to revive a stalled self-driving car program.
Uber acquired commercial transport-focused Otto late last year as the company pressed ahead with its pursuit of self-driving technology.
Levandowski, a co-founder of Otto, headed Uber’s efforts to develop self-driving technology for personal driving, delivery and trucking.


France ready to take Trump’s tariff threat to WTO

Updated 08 December 2019

France ready to take Trump’s tariff threat to WTO

  • Macron government will discuss a global digital tax with Washington at the OECD, says finance minister

PARIS: France is ready to go to the World Trade Organization to challenge US President Donald Trump’s threat to put tariffs on French goods in a row over a French tax on internet companies, its finance minister said on Sunday.

“We are ready to take this to an international court, notably the WTO, because the national tax on digital companies touches US companies in the same way as EU or French companies or Chinese. It is not discriminatory,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told France 3 television. Paris has long complained about US digital companies not paying enough tax on revenues earned in France.

In July, the French government decided to apply a 3 percent levy on revenue from digital services earned in France by firms with more than €25 million in French revenue and €750 million ($845 million) worldwide. It is due to kick in retroactively from the start of 2019.

Washington is threatening to retaliate with heavy duties on imports of French cheeses and luxury handbags, but France and the EU say they are ready to retaliate in turn if Trump carries out the threat. Le Maire said France was willing to discuss a global digital tax with the US at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), but that such a tax could not be optional for internet companies.

“If there is agreement at the OECD, all the better, then we will finally have a global digital tax. If there is no agreement at OECD level, we will restart talks at EU level,” Le Maire said.

He added that new EU Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni had already proposed to restart such talks.

France pushed ahead with its digital tax after EU member states, under the previous executive European Commission, failed to agree on a levy valid across the bloc after opposition from Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

The new European Commission assumed office on Dec. 1.