Uber founder Travis Kalanick sued by investor over alleged fraud

  12 August 2017    Read: 978
Uber founder Travis Kalanick sued by investor over alleged fraud

One of Uber’s biggest investors is suing the company’s former chief executive, Travis Kalanick, accusing him of perpetuating fraud in order to “increase his power over Uber for his own selfish ends”, AzVision.az reports citing the Independent.

Benchmark Capital filed a lawsuit on Thursday in which it accuses Mr Kalanick of concealing problems from the Uber board of directors and scheming to keep power after he was forced to step down as chief executive in June following a series of scandals.

The suit lays bare a tussle for power at the top of the $68bn (£52bn) startup, with Benchmark seeking to remove Mr Kalanick from Uber’s board and prevent him from involving himself with the business. Uber still has yet to find a replacement for Mr Kalanick as chief executive.

Benchmark owns 13 per cent of Uber, a stake that is estimated to be worth $9bn.

Mr Kalanick swiftly hit back on Thursday, issuing a statement in which he said the legal action was “completely without merit and riddled with lies and false allegations”.

A spokesperson for Mr Kalanick said Benchmark was “acting in its own best interests contrary to the interests of Uber” and denounced the legal action as a “transparent attempt to deprive Travis Kalanick of his rights as a founder and shareholder”.

The lawsuit adds to a litany of problems for Uber. The company faces separate legal action over allegations it obtained trade secrets from Google parent Alphabet’s self-driving car unit. That scandal saw Uber sack the head of its own self-driving unit, former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski, in May.

A string of sexual harassment accusations against Uber employees also led to the departure of several top executives earlier this year.

Mr Kalanick and other senior figures are also accused of improperly obtaining the medical records of a woman who was raped by an Uber driver in India.

In the latest lawsuit, Benchmark alleges that Mr Kalanick concealed what he knew about these problems and others. He then gained more power at the company by convincing the board to create three extra seats that only he had the right to fill.

The venture capital firm says these board seats were obtained fraudulently because Mr Kalanick was not honest about what he knew. He appointed himself to one of the seats after he was ousted as chief executive. The other two remain vacant.

In the lawsuit, Benchmark said it would not have allowed Mr Kalanick the right to extra seats if it was aware of the “gross mismanagement and other misconduct at Uber”.

“Kalanick’s improper role on the board threatens the sound management of Uber during this critical period,” the suit states. “Moreover, the value of Benchmark’s investment in Uber is significantly threatened by Kalanick’s continued presence on the board.”

Benchmark is seeking an injunction to prevent Mr Kalanick from appointing new directors, asserting he had agreed to give up those rights when he stepped aside.

The lawsuit, which is filed in Delaware Chancery court, was first reported by news website Axios.

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