One day after an explosion of reports sourced from a massive “Uber Files” leak containing thousands of documents and messages between top executives, Mark MacGann, the company’s former chief of policy in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) has come forward as the source.
In this video interview (embedded above), MacGann told The Guardian that “I was the one talking to governments; I was the one pushing this with the media; I was the one telling people that they should change the rules because drivers were going to benefit and people were going to get so much economic opportunity.” Accompanying reports on the interview are available from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), The Washington Post, and the BBC.
We had actually sold people a lie
MacGann was the company’s public face in those areas during the rollout of Uber’s ride-sharing service worldwide, holding his senior role from 2014 through 2016. And, as for those benefits for the drivers and the supposed economic opportunity of the gig economy, MacGann now says, “When that turned out not to be the case — we had actually sold people a lie — how can you have a clear conscience if you don’t stand up and own your contribution to how people are being treated today?”
He’s also a direct source for some of the communications in the leaks, which include communications with then-CEO Travis Kalanick, Uber senior vice president David Plouffe, and messages from French President Emmanuel Macron promising to “personally” look into problems with regulators in Marseille.
MacGann left Uber late in 2016 under what seemed to be good terms, although The Guardian notes he recently reached a settlement with the company in a dispute relating to his pay. Due to his status as the face of Uber’s European rollout, he says he was attacked in Brussels by angry cab drivers and saw Uber’s confrontational approach as a cause. “I started to feel it was indicative of Uber’s wider relationship with drivers, putting them in harm’s way for their own financial interests,” said MacGann.
After extended treatment for PTSD that a medical report said was linked to the professional stress he experienced at Uber, MacGann shared information with a French lawyer who was suing the company on behalf of drivers, and in January, he traveled to Geneva to meet with The Guardian, eventually sharing 18.69GB of emails, texts, and company records.
Collectively, the files and reporting show how Uber repeatedly ran into legal and political roadblocks because, as former head of global communications Nairi Hourdajian put it in a 2014 message, “Sometimes we have problems because, well, we’re just fucking illegal.” Its tactic, as MacGann told The Guardian, was to barge in regardless of whether the service was legal and expand quickly. “Don’t ask for permission. Just launch, hustle, enlist drivers, go out, do the marketing, and quickly people will wake up and see what a great thing Uber is.”
Uber responded with a statement yesterday from marketing and public affairs senior vice president Jill Hazelbaker, which closed by saying, “We have not and will not make excuses for past behavior 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.”
Today Uber responded with another statement, this time from from spokesperson Noah Edwardsen. “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.
Mark had only praise for Uber when he left the company six years ago. In his 2016 departure email, he called Uber the “enterprise of this generation” and described himself as “a strong believer in Uber’s mission.” Since then, however, Mark has been in litigation against the company in an attempt, among other things, to get paid a bonus he claimed to be owed for his work at Uber. That lawsuit recently ended with him being paid 585,000 euros. It is noteworthy that Mark felt compelled to “blow the whistle” only after his check cleared.”
On behalf of Kalanick, the founder and former CEO, spokesperson Devon Spurgeon said, “Travis Kalanick never authorized any actions or programs that would obstruct justice in any country. Mr. Kalanick never authorized or directed any illegal conduct in Uber’s expansion efforts in Russia, and in fact had very limited involvement in those expansion plans. And Mr. Kalanick never suggested that Uber should take advantage of violence at the expense of driver safety.”
Update July 11th, 6PM ET: Added statement from Uber.