Uber: The Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight

Uber was a Schumpeterian success. The creative destruction of the cab/Lincoln Town car transportation model. Independent contractors driving folks around in their own cars on their own schedules. Uber was hip, groovy, defiant, and the company the sophisticated opted to use for their transportation needs. Uber was the world’s most valuable start-up.

Then came the problems with alleged sexual harassment the corporate level. Then there was the failure to investigate properly the rape of a passenger by an Uber driver in India. Then came the accusations of theft of the driverless technology. Then Pittsburgh felt Uber was not delivering on its end of what was supposed to be a mutually beneficial relationship in that city. Then came accusations of an atmosphere of sexual harassment at the company. The came the suit by the Indian rape victim, a suit that names executives for alleged failures and lapses in security checks and their handling of the investigation. Then came the reality: accusations that Uber just treats everyone badly. With the CEO on indefinite leave, a committee of 14 executives, including HR and legal, will now run the company. And Ariana Huffington will no longer be the only woman on Uber’s board. Uber now has a second woman on board, as it were, Wan Ling Martello, former CFO on Nestle and Exec VP of Asia Zone. Ms. Huffington, at an all-hands meeting for the company, lectured on the importance of women on company boards, “When there’s one woman on the board, it’s much more likely that there will be a second woman on board.” Matt Jarzemsky, “Billionaire in Hot Water Over Uber Gaffe,” Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2017, p. B6. After Ms. Huffington offered that thought, David Bonderman, an Uber board member, billionaire, and chairman of private equity firm, TPG, quipped, “Actually, what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking.” Now, that right there is a gaffe worthy of Uber’s string of gaffes. Mr. Bonderman has apologized and resigned from the Uber board.

Uber has a big-time culture problem on so many layers and in so many layers. The change needed is not likely to come from a 14-member committee as CEO or the addition of one woman to its board. The bad decisions and worse attempts at fixes keep piling up. Is there anyone at Uber with a lick of common sense? Bright technical minds, great entrepreneurial spirit, and the maturity of the Goonies Go to Animal House.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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