Ergo, the secretive, CIA-linked firm that was paid by Uber to investigate the plaintiff in one of the ride-hail startup’s many lawsuits, has now admitted to lying and illegally recording phone calls during its probe, according to Law360. Lawyers for Ergo owned up to the infractions in oral arguments in court Thursday, drawing a rebuke from the judge overseeing the case.
Last December, Spencer Meyer filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, alleging a scheme to fix prices in violation of antitrust laws. The same day, Uber hired Ergo to investigate Meyer out of concern he posed a security risk to Kalanick. But Ergo also gathered information on Meyer’s lawyer, a move that some critics say went too far. Ergo’s lawyer argued that the firm was unaware the investigation was tied to a lawsuit, even while admitting Ergo’s investigator “dissembled and used false pretenses in his duties,” Law360 said.
During the hearing, US District Judge Jed Rakoff mused “it must have been a disappointment” when Ergo reported to Uber that Meyer and his lawyer had no skeletons in their closet. “My tentative thinking is that the only relief against Ergo is the relief they are consenting to,” Rakoff said, according to Law360. “I don't mean to suggest in any way that the court is not bothered and baffled by [what] happened at Ergo."
Uber’s use of Ergo, which is run by ex-officials from the CIA and the National Security Council, was first revealed in hundreds of pages of emails and other documents that were filed in court. The paper trail revealed the lengths the sharp-elbowed startup would go to gather information on its legal foes.
Meyer’s lawyers want compensation from Ergo for the costs of uncovering the investigation, while Uber’s lawyers are requesting the judge compel Meyer to settle his case through arbitration. Rakoff, however, has yet to rule from the bench. A decision is expected in the weeks to come.