Mark MacGann: who is Uber whistleblower, what is taxi company accused of doing - and how did the leaks happen?

(Photos: Getty Images)(Photos: Getty Images)
(Photos: Getty Images)

As Uber aggressively expanded into new markets throughout the world, it lobbied political authorities to loosen labour and taxi restrictions, among other nefarious practices.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a nonprofit network of reporters, combed through internal Uber texts, emails, invoices, and other data to get an “unprecedented look into the ways Uber defied taxi laws and upended workers’ rights”.

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The documents were first leaked to The Guardian newspaper, which shared them with the consortium.

According to the new report, the corporation reportedly employed a "kill switch" to circumvent regulators and law enforcement, channelled money through Bermuda and other tax havens, and explored presenting violence against its drivers as a tactic to generate public sympathy.

Here is everything you need to know about it.

What did Uber do?

Uber, which was founded in 2009, intended to circumvent taxi restrictions by providing inexpensive transportation via a ride-sharing app.

The “Uber Files” released by the consortium highlighted the incredible lengths the corporation went to to establish itself in nearly 30 countries.

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According to the papers, the company’s lobbyists — including former aides to then-US President Barack Obama — pressed government officials to suspend investigations, change labour and taxi regulations, and relax background checks on drivers.

(Photo: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)(Photo: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)

The report also found that Uber employed "stealth technology" to avoid government probes.

According to the report, the business utilised a "kill switch" that restricted access to Uber servers and prevented police from seizing evidence during searches in at least six countries.

In the UK, Uber lobbied lawmakers to alter London’s transportation policies.

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According to the BBC, leaked records show that lobbyists for the ride-sharing app met with then-Chancellor George Osborne and other ministers.

The "undeclared" meetings occurred after London Mayor Boris Johnson agreed to begin a review that might have hindered Uber’s expansion in the capital.

The meeting with Osborne took place at a private dinner in California, Uber’s home state.

According to the BBC, an internal Uber email claimed that this was preferable to a meeting in London because “this is a much more private affair with no hanger-on officials or staffers.”

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According to the corporation, more meetings were arranged between Uber lobbyists and current or past ministers such as Priti Patel, Sajid Javid, Matt Hancock, and Michael Gove.

Johnson eventually dropped his review, and Uber was able to boost its driver count in London.

Who is Mark MacGann?

Mark MacGann (right) during the opening bell ceremony at Euronext Brussels stock exchange in 2011 (Photo: BENOIT DOPPAGNE/AFP via Getty Images)Mark MacGann (right) during the opening bell ceremony at Euronext Brussels stock exchange in 2011 (Photo: BENOIT DOPPAGNE/AFP via Getty Images)
Mark MacGann (right) during the opening bell ceremony at Euronext Brussels stock exchange in 2011 (Photo: BENOIT DOPPAGNE/AFP via Getty Images)

It has been revealed that Mark MacGann is the man behind the leaks to The Guardian newspaper.

MacGann, a career lobbyist who oversaw Uber’s efforts to gain the approval of governments in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, came forward to identify himself as the source.

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He said he decided to speak up because he believes Uber willfully violated regulations in dozens of countries and deceived consumers about the benefits of the company’s gig-economy model to drivers.

The 52-year-old admits he was a member of Uber’s executive staff at the time and bears some responsibility for the behaviour that has been revealed.

MacGann served as the company’s public face during the global deployment of Uber’s ride-sharing service from 2014 to 2016.

He departed Uber in late 2016 on what appeared to be amicable terms, though The Guardian has reported that he recently struck a deal with the firm over a wage dispute.

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He claims that he was attacked in Brussels by disgruntled cab drivers because of his role as the face of Uber’s European rollout, and that Uber’s confrontational strategy was to blame.

After undergoing extensive treatment for PTSD, which a medical report linked to his professional stress at Uber, MacGann shared information with a French lawyer who was suing the company on behalf of drivers, and in January, he travelled to Geneva to meet with The Guardian, eventually sharing 18.69GB of emails, texts and company records.

Uber has responded with a statement saying,:“We have not and will not make excuses for past behaviour that is clearly not in line with our present values. Instead, we ask the public to judge us by what we’ve done over the last five years and what we will do in the years to come.”

Uber spokesperson Noah Edwardsen has since released a second statement, saying: “We understand that Mark has personal regrets about his years of steadfast loyalty to our previous leadership, but he is in no position to speak credibly about Uber today.”

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