An Uber shareholder is demanding more transparency about the impact of the company's lobbying efforts

  • The Teamsters General Fund, an Uber investor, wants the company to reveal more about its lobbying.
  • The fund urged Uber shareholders to vote for its proposal requiring an annual report from Uber.
  • It said Uber’s “highly innovative” but “controversial” lobbying could hurt its brand and business.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters General Fund, an investor in Uber, sent a letter to other Uber shareholders Thursday urging them to vote for a proposal that would force the company to disclose more details each year about its lobbying efforts.

“Uber’s lobbying is not only substantial, geographically extensive and highly innovative, but is profoundly controversial and raises critical questions over the sustainability of the company’s business model,” Ken Hall, the fund’s general secretary-treasurer, wrote in the letter.

“It may be tempting to view Uber’s current disclosures as a good-faith effort to address concerns over the transparency of its lobbying activities; but this would be a mistake,” Hall added.

Uber investors will vote on the proposal — which would require Uber to publish an annual report disclosing its lobbying policies, how much it spent on direct, indirect, and grassroots lobbying, and which groups the money went to — during the company’s annual shareholder meeting on May 11.

Uber has urged investors to vote against the proposal, citing its “existing risk management practices and current high level of transparency and accountability around political and lobbying activities and expenditures.”

The ride-hailing company did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Uber and other companies that depend heavily on cheap contract labor have ramped up their lobbying efforts over the past few years as federal and state regulators look to crack down on “gig” economy businesses that have for years operated in a regulatory gray area.

Uber spent a record $2.6 million lobbying the federal government in 2020, according to OpenSecrets. The company also contributed $30 million to a $200 million campaign to persuade California voters to pass Proposition 22, exempting it from a major state labor law, AB-5, and making Prop 22 the most heavily lobbied ballot measure in the state’s history.

A key aspect of that campaign was Uber’s indirect and “grassroots” lobbying through groups that helped the company broadcast its message to voters without telling them who the messenger was. In one case, an Uber-funded group sent mailers to California residents designed to trick them into believing progressive groups were supportive of Prop 22 (many prominent progressives actually opposed the measure).

In December, the Teamsters Union filed shareholder proposals at both Uber and Lyft, arguing both companies have failed to provide investors with sufficient information about the money they spend on lobbying — particularly grassroots lobbying, which is subject to less stringent disclosure requirements and often requires investors to dig through complicated and incomplete disclosures for each individual state.

The fund argued in its letter Thursday that Uber investors should push for more transparency so they can understand how much the company’s business model depends on its lobbying efforts being successful, and whether its reputation could suffer because of the positions it’s taking.

“Transparency is vital to understanding how Uber is navigating the acute reputational risks that come with lobbying around matters as emotive as wage theft and workers’ rights,” it wrote, adding: “But perhaps most crucially, disclosure is key to any evaluation of the long-term sustainability of a business model built around the heavy and controversial use of independent contractors.”

Axel Springer, Insider Inc.’s parent company, is an investor in Uber.

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