Uber reviews Asia operations amid bribery allegations: report

An Uber motorcycle taxi driver waits for customers next to a shopping mall in Jakarta, Indonesia September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

REUTERS – Uber Technologies, which is the subject of a US federal probe into whether it broke bribery laws, has started a review of its Asia operations and notified US authorities about payments made by staff to police officers in Indonesia, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The review comes after Uber said in August it was cooperating with a preliminary investigation led by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) into whether its managers violated US laws against bribery of foreign officials, specifically the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Uber has hired law firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP to review its Asia operations. It previously hired the firm to investigate how it obtained the medical records of an Indian woman who was raped by an Uber driver in 2014, Reuters reported in June.

Bloomberg first reported Uber’s review of its Asia operations. It said O’Melveny & Myers was examining records of payments made in Asia and interviewing employees.

It quoted people with knowledge of the matter as saying that late last year, an Uber employee in Jakarta made multiple, small payments to police on the understanding that Uber would be permitted to continue operating from an office located in a non-business zone.

Uber fired the employee and placed the head of the Indonesian business who approved the expense report on a leave of absence, Bloomberg said, citing the sources. The head has since left the company, it reported.

Jakarta Police spokesman Argo Yuwono told Reuters there was no investigation into any payments. He also said jurisdiction over location permits resided with the local government, not police.

Uber declined to comment when contacted by Reuters. The US Department of Justice could not be reached for comment outside of regular US business hours.

The DOJ is focusing on suspicious activity in China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea, Bloomberg reported. Uber’s law firm is also reviewing financial arrangements with Malaysia’s government that may have influenced lawmakers there, it said.

Uber’s financial relationship with Malaysian government-linked agencies includes a $30 million investment by the country’s second-largest pension fund, Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (KWAP). Uber also participated in an entrepreneurship programme initiated by the state-backed Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC).

The investment and participation were followed by passage of ride-sharing laws in July.

KWAP declined to comment when contacted by Reuters. MaGIC said “we strongly refute involvement in any quid-pro-quo arrangements.”

The DOJ investigation is the latest in a series of worldwide legal wrangling at Uber, which has also made headlines with allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace and executive misconduct.

Last month, Uber appointed Dara Khosrowshahi, who led travel-booking website operator Expedia Inc for 12 years, as chief executive to succeed Travis Kalanick who was ousted in June.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengalaru, Joe Menn in San Francisco, Liz Lee in Kuala Lumpur, Cindy Silviana and Augustinus Beo Da Costa in Jakarta, Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore; Editing by Leslie Adler and Christopher Cushing)

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