Former Uber CEO says investor lawsuit a ‘public and personal attack’

FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2017, file photo, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif. Ryan Graves, Uber's chief of global operations, resigned and investors sued the company’s former CEO. Graves told Uber staff in an email Thursday, Aug. 10, that he will transition out of his role as senior vice president of global operations in mid-September. That board, and its support for former CEO Travis Kalanick, was the subject of a lawsuit filed Thursday in Delaware Chancery Court by Benchmark Capital Partners. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
Updated 18 August 2017
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Former Uber CEO says investor lawsuit a ‘public and personal attack’

SAN FRANCISCO: The ousted chief executive of Uber Technologies Inc. rejected a lawsuit filed against him by one of the company’s top investors as a “public and personal attack” without merit, according to court documents filed late on Thursday.
Venture capital firm Benchmark Capital, which says it owns 13 percent of Uber and controls 20 percent of the voting power, last week sued former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to force him off the board, where he still has a seat, and rescind his remaining power there.
Kalanick, in the first court filing in response to the lawsuit, said Benchmark’s legal action is part of a larger scheme to oust him from the company he helped found and take away power that is rightfully his. He also argued that the legal quarrel should take place in arbitration and that Delaware’s Chancery Court, where the lawsuit was filed, lacks jurisdiction.
Benchmark’s lawsuit marks a rare instance of a well-regarded Silicon Valley investor suing the central figure at one of its own, highly successful startups. The case has stunned the venture capital community and created a divided Uber board and infighting among shareholders, many of whom have criticized Benchmark for suing.
At issue is a change to the board structure in 2016 that expanded the number of voting directors by three, with Kalanick having the sole right to fill those seats.
In its lawsuit, Benchmark said Kalanick hid from the board a number of misdeeds, including allegations of trade-secret theft involving autonomous car technology and misconduct by Kalanick and other executives in handling a rape committed by an Uber driver in India, when he asked Uber’s board to give him those extra seats.
Benchmark said it was “fraudulently induced” to agree to the change and wants Kalanick to give up control of those seats.
But Kalanick’s court filing said that at the time of the board change, “Benchmark was fully aware of all of the allegations involving Kalanick.” The venture firm made no mention of fraud and continued to publicly support Kalanick through May, according to the filing.
Then in June, Benchmark was part of a group of five investors who demanded Kalanick’s resignation as Uber’s CEO.
“The Benchmark principals also handed Kalanick a draft resignation letter, and told him he had hours to sign it, or else Benchmark would start a public campaign against him,” according to the court document.
Benchmark first backed Uber in 2011 with an investment of $12 million. At the $68 billion valuation that Uber achieved last year, Benchmark’s stake would be worth almost $9 billion.
“Resorting to litigation was an extremely difficult step for Benchmark,” Benchmark said in a statement through a spokeswoman. “Failing to act now would mean endorsing behavior that is utterly unacceptable in any company, let alone a company of Uber’s size and importance.”
The lawsuit comes amid discussions by outside investors, including SoftBank Group Corp, to buy a large chunk of Uber stock, although it is unclear if any transaction will occur.
Benchmark’s public effort against Kalanick is largely solitary, with the remaining six members of Uber’s board of directors last week issuing a statement expressing their “disappointment” in the lawsuit.
Uber investor Shervin Pishevar of Sherpa Capital, joined by other shareholders, sent letters to Benchmark calling for the firm to divest its shares and step down from the board.
In an unusual move, Benchmark this week wrote an open letter to Uber employees, saying Kalanick had undermined the CEO search and was seeking to “create a power vacuum in which Travis could return.”


US to withdraw from UN rights council: UN officials

Updated 2 min 4 sec ago
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US to withdraw from UN rights council: UN officials

  • Washington accuses UN Human Rights Council of bias against Israel.
  • UN rights chief: "The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable".

UNITED NATIONS: The United States will announce on Tuesday that it is withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council, which it accuses of bias against Israel, UN officials said.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley will make the announcement at a press conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington at 5:00 p.m. (2100 GMT).
Haley has repeatedly threatened to quit the Geneva-based body, established in 2006 to promote and protect human rights worldwide.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric declined to comment ahead of the announcement, saying: “We will wait to hear the details of that decision before commenting fully.”
“What is clear, is that the secretary-general is a strong believer in the human rights architecture of the UN and the active participation of all member states in that architecture.”
UN officials privately confirmed they were expecting the US decision to quit the rights body.
The withdrawal followed strong UN criticism of Trump’s policy to separate migrant children from their families at the US-Mexico border.
UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Monday “the thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable.”
Human Rights Watch criticized the move, warning that Washington’s absence at the top UN body would put the onus on other governments to address the world’s most serious rights problems.
“The Trump administration’s withdrawal is a sad reflection of its one-dimensional human rights policy: defending Israeli abuses from criticism takes precedence above all else,” said HRW’s executive director Kenneth Roth.
“The UN Human Rights Council has played an important role in such countries as North Korea, Syria, Myanmar and South Sudan, but all Trump seems to care about is defending Israel.”
US criticism stems from the fact that Israel is the only country that has a dedicated agenda item, known as Item 7, at the rights council, meaning its treatment of the Palestinians comes under scrutiny at each of the body’s three annual sessions.
The United Stated refused to join the body when it was created in 2006, when George W. Bush was in the White House and his ambassador to the UN was John Bolton, Trump’s current hawkish and UN-skeptic national security adviser.
It was only after Barack Obama came to power that Washington joined the council in 2009.
Since Trump took office, the United States has quit the UN cultural agency UNESCO, cut UN funding and announced plans to quit the UN-backed Paris climate agreement.