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Uber Must Turn Over CEO Emails In Payments Lawsuit

Uber will have to turn over emails from its CEO in a customer lawsuit over how the taxi-hailing service divides up payments with drivers, a federal judge ruled last week.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco ordered the company to review “approximately 21,000 documents” and turn over those related to how Uber splits tips with its drivers by Jan. 23, Reuters reported.

The messages from CEO Travis Kalanick and operations VP Ryan Graves were demanded in a lawsuit accusing Uber of falsely advertising that a 20 percent gratuity on fares is “automatically added for the driver,” when the company actually retains a “substantial portion” for itself. The lawsuit claims this caused customers to overpay, amounting to breach of contract and violating California consumer protection laws.

The lawsuit, which was filed last January, is seeking class-action status.

Uber contended that the plaintiffs did not need the emails and that other evidence, including testimony from general managers in cities where the San Francisco-based company operates, would offer a “complete understanding” of its tipping practices.

That argument was rejected by U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu in November and affirmed last week by Chen, who said the order to review and turn over the documents “does not represent an improper burden given the potential role of defendant’s CEO and vice president of operations in defendant’s challenged conduct.”

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