A few weeks after the attorney Andrew Schmidt filed a labor lawsuit against Uber and its CEO Travis Kalanick last December — one of so many legal battles that keep the ride-hailing company's legal team occupied — Schmidt's friends and colleagues began receiving calls about him from people purporting to be "profiling up-and-coming labor lawyers in the US." Other calls were made to people who knew Schmidt's client, those ones made from people claiming to be researching "up-and-coming researchers in environmental conservation." Behind these calls was a third party investigator hired by Uber to dig up dirt on Schmidt and his client.
The Verge has been looking into the ensuing, ongoing legal battle that runs parallel to the original labor case, which appears to have been first reported on by CNBC last month when a judge ruled that Schmidt had provided enough evidence to reasonably suspect Uber of fraud, "raising a serious risk of perverting the process of justice before this court."
Uber communicated through encrypted channels with Ergo, whom it appears to have paid nearly $20,000 for the investigation. When Schmidt contacted Uber to ask if they were behind the calls about him, they originally said they were not. That's a mistake that could cost them, and they later called back to clarify that they sort of were. However, "Uber took reasonable steps to ensure that Ergo complied with the law," the company wrote in a filing. "It is undisputed that Uber and Mr. Kalanick were unaware that Ergo would use misrepresentations during its investigation."
The Verge pretty naturally sees this as potentially damaging the many other cases Uber is working on right now, noting that this marks the fourth time that Uber commissioned Ergo's services. There's also a connection to be drawn between the remarks of one Uber exec, Emil Michael, who in 2014 bragged about an idea to investigate the private lives of journalists to tarnish their arguments against the company.