The judge in Uber's New York anti-trust case has ordered the release of documents to determine if the private investigators hired by the ride-hailing service gathered information about its competitors in a fraudulent manner.
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff is specifically looking to determine if Uber directly instructed its investigators to lie to get further information about Spencer Meyer, the lead plaintiff in the antitrust lawsuit, and his attorney.
The suit alleges that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is part of a conspiracy to fix prices with Uber drivers. Interestingly, the case names Kalanick and not Uber, though Uber is trying to intervene in the lawsuit.
According to the suit, Uber's investigators allegedly contacted Meyer's attorney's colleagues under the guise of trying to write a profile of an up-and-coming labor lawyer in the U.S.
Kalanick initially denied that the company was involved, according to court documents. However, later revelations made it clear that Kalanick had, in fact, hired a PI from a firm called Ergo in an attempt to learn more information about Meyer.
Uber denies that it has any knowledge of the lies that the PI told.
An Uber spokesman declined to comment on Tuesday (June 7).
"Uber has a simple but illegal business plan: to fix prices among competitors and take a cut of the profits," according to the suit.
In his order, Rakoff demanded Uber provide evidence that it did not know about the misrepresentations.
"An Ergo investigator hired by Uber in connection with this case made false representations in order to gain access to information about plaintiff and his counsel, thus raising a serious risk of perverting the process of justice before this court," Rakoff wrote in his order.
Neither Ergo nor Andrew Schmidt, the plaintiff's attorney, have offered public comment.
Uber appealed on the grounds the communications were privileged — an argument that failed to impress Rakoff.
"The court finds that plaintiff has provided an entirely 'reasonable basis' to suspect the perpetration of a fraud and to suspect that Uber communications furthered such a fraud," Rakoff wrote.
Kalanick's attorneys have already tried to get the case summarily thrown out on the argument that the passenger agreement that all riders sign waives the right to class-action lawsuits.
Rakoff denied that request in March.