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

Dara Khosrowshahi
  • 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.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Microsoft president Brad Smith candidly confesses politics are pay-to-play in response to criticism over the company’s donations to lawmakers who objected to US election results

microsoft brad smith
Microsoft president Brad Smith.

Microsoft CEO Brad Smith offered his employees a candid take this week on why the company gives money to politicians, shedding light on the heated debate over how corporate America should respond to GOP-led efforts to overturn the results of the US presidential election.

“It plays an important role. Not because the checks are big, but because the way the political process works,” Smith said, according to CNBC. “Politicians in the United States have events, they have weekend retreats, you have to write a check and then you’re invited and participate.”

Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

After 147 Republican members of Congress challenged states’ Electoral College votes earlier this month, on the same day protesters violently broke into the US Capitol in a deadly riot, America’s biggest companies – and political spenders – faced criticism for their financial support of the lawmakers who had for months undermined confidence in the election.

One of those companies was Microsoft, which has given more than $178,000 to 61 those lawmakers through its political action committee, MSPAC, during the latest election cycles – the third-most among S&P 500 companies.

Read more: Joe Biden touts transparency, but his presidential inauguration spending remains a money mystery as organizers won’t disclose who’s cashing in

Microsoft temporarily paused all of its MSPAC contributions following pushback from employees. But as critics noted, the company hasn’t specifically committed to stop funding the lawmakers who attempted to overturn the election results – despite Smith signing a letter denouncing those efforts – effectively penalizing lawmakers who upheld the principles espoused in the letter.

Smith argued to employees on Thursday that the contributions are still important because they get Microsoft’s lobbyists access to politicians, which helps them build relationships so the lawmakers are more receptive when Microsoft wants to lobby them on an issue.

“If you work in the government affairs team in the United States, you spend your weekends going to these events; you spend your evenings going to these dinners, and the reason you go is because the PAC writes a check,” Smith said, according to CNBC.

Smith added that the relationships built at these events make it more likely lawmakers will be receptive when he calls them to ask for their help on employees’ immigration cases, as well as “issues around national security, or privacy, or procurement reform. Or the tax issues our finance team manages.”

However, Smith didn’t acknowledge contributions that companies give to candidates who are up for election and depend on those contributions to help them get – or stay – in power. In 2020 alone, Microsoft gave $88,000 to lawmakers up for election who eventually objected to Electoral College results.

Read more: EXCLUSIVE: GitHub is facing employee backlash after the firing of a Jewish employee who suggested ‘Nazis are about’ on the day of the US Capitol siege

Microsoft has come under fire from employees over its political support and government work before, and briefly paused its contributions in 2019 before quietly resuming them again just months later, according to Geekwire.

Smith’s comments provided a more direct acknowledgment than most executives typically give about how American politics are often “pay-to-play” – particularly following the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United that allowed companies to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence politics.

But they also came at a time when companies are facing unprecedented pressure from employees, customers, and shareholders, to rethink which candidates they support, who they do business with, and the positions they take on important national issues.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Amazon hired the lobbyist brother of close Biden ally days after the 2020 election

jeff bezos amazon
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in 2019.

  • Days after the 2020 presidential election, Amazon hired a lobbyist whose brother is an advisor to President-elect Joe Biden.
  • Jeff Ricchetti, whose brother Steve Ricchetti serves as counselor to Biden, was brought on as an Amazon lobbyist on November 13, as CNBC first reported
  • Ricchetti will be lobbying for Amazon on issues related to COVID-19 and the CARES act, according to lobbying disclosure forms. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Days after the 2020 presidential election, Amazon hired a lobbyist whose brother is a close advisor to President-elect Joe Biden.

Jeff Ricchetti, whose brother Steve Ricchetti will serve as White House counselor to Biden, was brought on as an Amazon lobbyist on November 13, as CNBC first reported

A lobbying registration form filed by Ricchettis’s firm, Ricchetti Incorporated, lists Amazon.com Services LLC, of Seattle, as its newest client. Ricchetti signed forms filed in the House and Senate lobbying databases on December 23. The forms don’t disclose payment. 

Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday. 

A source told CNBC that the brothers keep their family and professional lives separate. 

“Jeff has never and will never lobby his brother on behalf of any of his clients, and Steve has had no role in his brother’s business since he sold his stake in the firm in 2012,” a source told CNBC.

Steve Ricchetti has been part of Biden’s political sphere for years. He served as second-term chief of staff while Biden was vice president. When Biden takes over the White House in January, Richetti will be a counselor to the president, an important right-hand man and sounding board. 

Ricchetti will be lobbying for Amazon on issues related to COVID-19 and the CARES act, according to the forms. 

Amazon’s healthcare ambitions have been described as massive. Along with Amazon Pharmacy, which launched in most states, it’s building Amazon Care, a primary care service for large employers. 

Last week’s disclosure marked the first time Ricchetti’s K Street firm filed a disclosure listing Amazon. But Ricchetti filed two other forms in December, both detailing lobbying efforts for other healthcare clients. 

For Evofem Biosciences, a biopharmaceutical company, Ricchetti’s lobbying on “federal health policies pertaining to coverage for contraceptive services.” For Vaxart, a vaccine development firm, he’s lobbying on “legislative and regulatory policies regarding oral vaccine development and funding,” according to his disclosure. 

Amazon has a long list of lobbyists it’s worked with, including its own Amazon.com Services LLC lobbying branch, which ate up $4.41 million in funding in the third quarter, according to a disclosure form. 

 

 

Read the original article on Business Insider