Uber is in even hotter water than usual. This time it's because the company appears to have concealed information pertaining to its legal battle with Waymo, the self-driving car company owned by Alphabet (née Google). In a pre-trial hearing Tuesday, U.S. District Judge William Alsup pronounced, "I can no longer trust the words of the lawyers for Uber in this case," according to New York Times reporter Mike Isaac. Alsup has postponed until the latest revelations can be sorted out.
The bombshells largely come via fired Uber employee Richard Jacobs, who testified on Tuesday. Jacobs described a secretive internal team that worked to illicitly acquire the intellectual assets of other companies -- which is exactly what Waymo has accused Uber of doing. Jacobs also referenced the use of encrypted messaging apps, which were sometimes explicitly meant to evade legal discovery.
Jacobs says Uber used encrypted, ephemeral messaging to "make sure we didn't create a paper trail that would come back to haunt the company in any potential criminal or civil litigation."-- kate conger (@kateconger) November 28, 2017
Holy crap, fired Uber employee is admitting on stand that Uber had an entire department devoted to acquiring other companies' intellectual property.-- Jeremy C. Owens (@jowens510) November 28, 2017
Considering Waymo is accusing Uber of exactly that, it's kind of a "wow" moment. https://t.co/NZwuVw9u1f
Making matters worse, Jacobs outlined a practice similar to redlining, which the company has repeatedly denied in the past. In fact, one of the claims Uber has made to being superior to taxis is that it doesn't discriminate against riders needing pickups or dropoffs in minority or low-income neighborhoods.
uhhhhh Jacobs seems to have just described Uber participating in redlining?-- kate conger (@kateconger) November 28, 2017
"That's to say we could lower the operating costs by identifying high threat areas where crime takes place... help the company avoid those areas."
The cumulative effect of Jacobs' testimony was to enrage Judge Alsup, who felt that Uber's lawyers intentionally misled and deceived him. Uber's deputy general counsel Angela Padilla is scheduled to take the stand tomorrow, and it's safe to expect that the judge will keep a close eye on her testimony.
"Any company that would set up a surreptitious system is as suspicious as can be," says Judge Alsup to Uber attorney in Waymo case-- Greg Bensinger (@GregBensinger) November 28, 2017