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Uber's Response to Sexual Harassment Investigations

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Last week, former U.S. Attorney Eric Holder shared detailed findings of his investigation into sexual harassment claims at Uber with a subcommittee of the company's board of directors. While the results of that investigation are unlikely to be made public, the fallout can't be kept a secret.

On Tuesday of last week Uber fired more than 20 people in response to multiple probes into the company's corporate culture and conduct, and this morning the company confirmed its second-most powerful executive, Emil Michael, is out as senior VP of business. And, considering neither investigation is over, more changes could be upcoming.

Moving Out

As reported by Axion, Michael was considered CEO Travis Kalanick's right hand man, and credited with much of Uber's fundraising prowess. Exactly why Michael was forced out remains a mystery: CNN noted it was Michael who made headlines in 2014 for suggesting the company do opposition research on journalists critical of Uber and for visiting an escort bar in South Korea with Kalanick and other employees that same year. And Axion notes that Michael is alleged to have viewed the medical reports of an Uber passenger raped by her driver in India.

The other firings are largely in response to a separate investigation led by law firm Perkins Coie LLP, which is reportedly reviewing as many as 215 human resources reports. While those fired have not been identified publicly, some of those fired may have been senior executives. In addition to those axed, 31 employees are now in counseling or training, and another seven received written warnings from the company. Perkins Coie is still probing 57 other claims.

Moving In

Kalanick has conceded he needs leadership help, both to replace heads of finance, growth, engineering, and policy and communications who have fled. He also needs leadership help to remold Uber's image and culture. The company has reportedly hired at least two high-profile senior executives, both women, tasked with reassessing strategy and rethinking Uber's branding, and brought in a search firm to find a chief operating officer.

Former Apple Inc. executive Bozoma Saint John and Harvard Business School Professor Frances Frei will be tasked with burnishing a brand image tainted by a near ceaseless barrage of corporate scandals over the past year.

Meanwhile, Travis Kalanick himself has announced that he is taking a leave of absence. In an email to his employees, he wrote, "For Uber 2.0 to succeed there is nothing more important than dedicating my time to building out the leadership team. But if we are going to work on Uber 2.0, I also need to work on Travis 2.0 to become the leader that this company needs and that you deserve."

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