Earlier this week, The Guardian published a stunning report detailing the blatantly unethical activity Uber engaged in to become a juggernaut among tech startups. The report sourced information from a massive leak of 124,000 confidential documents from inside the company. The leaks demonstrate how Uber strong-armed local regulators and national governments to allow the transportation startup to expand its services around the globe. Uber executives, including co-founded Travis Kalanick, met with presidents, prime ministers, and other government officials around the world.
The most prominent figure featured in the leaks is the current President of France, Emmanuel Macron. Between 2014 and 2016, when Macron (a former investment banker) was serving as France’s finance minister, he met with Kalanick four times, according to the Uber co-founder’s leaked public diary. Previously, only a single meeting between Macron and Kalanick, at Davos in January 2016, was publicly known. Leaked text and email communications between the pair show that they were on very friendly terms.
This had very real implications on France’s policies regarding Uber. An internal Uber memo states that Macron wanted France to work for the company, despite his action contradicting French law. Before their first meeting in 2014 at the French finance ministry, an aide contacted Uber’s management in France to explicitly ask how the company would be regulated.
A great example of Macron’s pro-Uber stance as finance minister comes from 2015, when Uber’s services were banned in Marseille, France’s second-largest city. Uber contacted Macron about the situation; Macron promised to look into it personally. Two days later, the ban in Marseille was revoked, with neither Uber nor the finance ministry admitting to any involvement in the decision.
Uber indirectly returned the favor: Mark MacGann, Uber’s chief lobbyist in Europe, zealously backed Macron’s campaign for the French presidency in 2017, including organizing fundraising dinners.
In light of the leaks, President Macron currently faces harsh criticism from his political opponents, including threats of a potential parliamentary inquiry on the matter. This week, the French president has doubled down on his stance that the country should not only embrace Uber, but a deregulated economy in general.
The Guardian quotes Macron talking about his past relationship with Uber. “I’m proud of it. If they have created jobs in France, I’m very proud of that, and you know what, I’d do it again tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.” Macron and his administration firmly believe that he was simply doing his job as finance minister, and that the meetings, diligently kept secret for years, were within ethical standards.