Justice Department Said to Be Probing Uber

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By Alexis Kramer

A California U.S. attorney has launched an inquiry into Uber Technologies Inc., a Portland, Ore. city office said in a report April 28 on the company’s alleged past use of software technology known as Greyball to evade local regulators.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation’s report summarized the office’s investigation into Uber’s alleged use of the technology in the city, as well as Lyft Inc.'s operations. The investigation included audits, inspections, ride-hailing company data and information by other regulatory agencies, according to the report.

“After PBOT initiated this investigation, the City of Portland was notified by the United States Attorney of the Northern District of California that Uber is the subject of a federal inquiry,” the report said. “The City of Portland is cooperating with this on-going probe.”

Portland Transportation Commissioner Dan Saltzman told Bloomberg BNA April 28 that the city and the U.S. attorney’s office requested the same documents from Uber for their respective probes.

An Uber spokeswoman did not immediately comment. Abraham Simmons, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch, declined to comment.

Lyft spokesman Scott Coriell told Bloomberg BNA that Lyft has worked “collaboratively and cooperatively” with the city of Portland. “We look forward to continuing to do so,” he said.

More Information Needed

The Portland report said an audit of Uber and Lyft showed no indication that either ride-hailing company used technology to block law enforcement since being allowed to legally operate in the city, in April 2015. However, the report said Uber failed to provide all of the requested documentation during the audit.

“This failure calls into question Uber’s commitment to comply in general with the City of Portland’s regulatory framework,” the report said. “It also raises questions about Uber’s ability to be a trustworthy partner in PBOT’s efforts to ensure that Portland’s TNC customers receive safe and reliable service.”

Saltzman said in a memo that he will seek a subpoena on Uber for the previously-requested information it failed to provide. He told Bloomberg BNA that he plans to bring the request to the City Council the week of May 8.

The report recommended that the city strengthen language in its Transportation Network Company and Taxi Code to make clear that attempts to evade city officials will result in fines, suspension or revocation of operating permit. The report also recommended increasing enforcement capacity and investing in advanced technology that would allow the bureau to capture real-time data.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alexis Kramer in Washington at aKramer@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

For More Information

The Greyball Audit report is available at http://src.bna.com/ol5.

The transportation commissioner's memo is available at http://src.bna.com/oms.

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