After Uber’s many bumps in the road, including a 2016 data breach that it attempted to hide and 2017 lawsuits alleging gender and racial discrimination, a new CLO is joining the new CEO in taking the company in a new direction.
Corporate Counsel recently interviewed CLO, Tony West, who was hired last November. West’s previous positions included being a U.S. Department of Justice official and general counsel at PepsiCo Inc. It was while at the latter that Uber pursued West, but he declined. But when former CEO Travis Kalanick resigned, and Dara Khosrowshahi became the new CEO, West’s interest changed. He now wanted to be a part of this corporate change.
West shared with CC that his first day on the job included calling regulators and informing them about the breach. There is much cleanup ahead stemming from that breach cover-up, including investigations and private lawsuits. As for future penalties, it’s West’s hope that they are “commensurate with that violation,” as the breach did not reveal credit card information or Social Security numbers, only “the failure to disclose to the appropriate parties in a timely fashion.”
West has personally looked into whether his company has discontinued its notorious surveillance activities with tools and projects like Hell and Greyball. To the best of his knowledge, all of them have ceased. West sent a memo to all employees on the matter.
“I wanted to make my expectation crystal clear that there was no place for that type of activity at Uber.”
West’s conversations with employees have also included the importance he places on transparency, integrity and accountability.
CC asked the new CLO if changes he’s made have included terminating or adding in-house lawyers.
“I am taking on a fairly significant organizational restructuring, which we will be rolling out in the next few weeks. It will help centralize decisions, as opposed to no one owning certain decisions. I’ll be clarifying who’s responsible for what and making sure these functions are adequately resourced. I think we’re going to have a much more robust legal function.”
Another future focus of West’s is investing heavily in the company’s compliance program.
As for resolving legal issues before Uber’s planned IPO in 2019, West claims it’s not possible and also not “the yardstick.” Instead, he considers the real measurement to be whether stakeholders, investors, regulators and the general public see that Uber is making strides and that real operational change is taking place.