San Francisco: A major Uber investor has sued founder Travis Kalanick, accusing the recently departed chief executive of covering misdeeds while rigging the board in order to return to power at the company. Kalanick resigned in June, yielding to pressure from investors seeking to clean up a toxic corporate culture at Uber.
His departure capped a rocky period for the global ride sharing giant, which has been roiled by disturbing reports of a cutthroat workplace culture, harassment, discrimination and questionable business tactics to thwart rivals.
A civil suit filed by Uber investor Benchmark Capital Partners accused Kalanick of committing fraud, breach of contract, and violating fiduciary duty by conniving to "entrench himself on Uber's board of directors and increase his power for his own selfish ends." The suit, which calls on a Delaware court to bar Kalanick from tinkering with the Uber board in any way, argued that Kalanick saw his resignation as unavoidable and finagled to "pack the board with loyal allies in an attempt to insulate his prior conduct from scrutiny and clear the path for his eventual return as CEO."
The suit contends Kalanick essentially duped Benchmark into agreeing to expand the Uber board by three seats to 11 people, giving the then chief executive the power to appoint members.At the time, Kalanick hid information about mismanagement, including acquired self-driving vehicle firm Otto was suspected of having trade secrets swiped from Google-owned Waymo and that an Uber executive had wrongly gotten hold of medical records of a woman in India raped by an Uber driver there, according to the suit.
Kalanick also didn't mention to Benchmark "a pervasive culture of gender discrimination and sexual harassment and a hose of other inappropriate and unethical directives" he issued, the suit contended.
Kalanick, who had been the driving force behind Uber's massive global expansion and whose brash style had made him a liability, still holds a large voting stake in the company, whose USD 68 billion valuation makes it the world's largest venture-backed startup. The pioneering company has been facing pressure to rein in a no-holds-barred management style led by Kalanick, and to reform its work environment.