13 May 2017

Can You Spell RICO?

Federal prosecutors are investigating Uber for criminal conspiracy to evade regulators.

It seems to me that this would be a good opportunity to apply the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) against them:
Pity the poor Uber lawyer who has to tell an already moody Travis Kalanick that homeboy’s got a new headache brewing…and this sh%$ is federal.
An inquiry by the United States Department of Justice into Uber’s use of a program to deceive some regulators has expanded.
The ride-hailing company has been under scrutiny from the Justice Department over a tool called Greyball, which The New York Times reported on in March. The Greyball tool allowed Uber to deploy what was essentially a fake version of its app to evade law enforcement agencies that were trying to clamp down on its service in cities including Portland, Ore., Boston and Las Vegas.
Oh man, it’s almost like Uber isn’t allowed to purposefully mislead local governments in its ongoing quest to do whatever the f%$# it wants whenever it wants. We know hedge funds with more self-control and less ego.

Greyball is the most concrete piece of evidence yet that Uber genuinely believes itself to exist somewhere beyond the silly laws of mere mortal companies. The Ayn Rand-themed car service that lives on your phone is such a complete and total Silicon Valley baby that it not only keeps trying to get away with sh%$ that no one else would, it keeps acting shocked and persecuted when it gets caught. Kalanick waged passive-aggressive cold wars with cities, states and nations, creating chaos in most of them and winning in even more, but many of his enemies have gone full stalking horse, waiting for their moment to exact revenge. Dumb hubristic sh%$ like “Greyball” is akin to handing them an invite that reads in embossed cursive “You may f%$# me back now.”
 (%$# mine)

RICO requires a conspiracy to further certain predicate offenses, which includes obstruction of justice, interfering with interstate commerce, and fraud.

The very existence of the Grayball software proves a conspiracy, and Ubers actions to evade regulation seem to involve the above three crimes, so perhaps we will see Uber and Kalanik in the dock in the not too distant future.

Honestly, it would do the world, and the tech community, a world of good if Kalanik ended up in jail for a few years.  It might other wannabee Galtian supermen.


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