tuesday, 26 july of 2016

Judge slams Uber for digging up dirt on customer who sued

Uber is in trouble yet again for attempting to dig up dirt on its enemies.

A Manhattan federal judge on Monday blasted the ride-hailing app company for an “intrusive and clandestine” and “arguably illegal” probe into a customer who is suing it over its surge-pricing policies.

Judge Jed Rakoff said Uber hired an unlicensed New York-based investigations firm to look into environmental scientist Spencer Meyer and the lawyers he hired to sue the tech giant for over its changeable pricing.

Uber hired a firm called Ergo Investigation, which gave the job to a private detective who blatantly lied to Meyer’s family and friends about why he was contracting them, Judge Rakoff said.

In talking to Meyer’s landlord, for example, the investigator pretended he was working on a “real estate market research project” tied to property owners in New Haven. He told other people
that he was simply seeking “to verify the professional record … of various up-and-coming researchers in environmental conservation.”

In reality, “the purpose of the investigation was to try to unearth derogatory personal information about Mr. Meyer and his counsel that could then be used to try to intimidate them or to prejudice the court against them,” Judge Rakoff concluded.

Rakoff dismissed Uber’s claims that the investigation was done to ensure that Meyer did not pose a safety threat to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who he is also suing.

“It is a sad day when, in response to the filing of a commercial lawsuit, a corporate defendant feels compelled to hire unlicensed private investigators to conduct secret personal background investigations,” Rakoff said in his scathing 31-page report.

“The court cannot help but be troubled by this whole dismal incident,” Rakoff said.

The incident harks back to a 2014 in which an Uber executive suggested he could “spend millions of dollars” to dig up dirt on reporters who were critical of the company.

The tech giant has also gotten into hot water for tracking riders’ whereabouts through its “God’s View” tracking tool.

Judge Rakoff concluded that Ergos’ executives were aware of the investigators’ fibs. And when caught, Uber lawyers denied that the firm was behind the investigation, Rakoff said.

Rakoff barred Uber and Kalanick from using any of the information they obtained in the tainted probe, and ordered them to stay away from any further clandestine or fraudulent investigations.

Meyer is seeking damages on behalf of millions of riders on claims that Uber’s pricing algorithm violates antitrust laws that would otherwise protect consumers from price manipulation.​

(Published by NY Post - July 25, 2016)

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