Uber files lobbyist and whistleblower to testify at Brussels Parliament hearing

Uber files lobbyist and whistleblower to testify at Brussels Parliament hearing
Credit: Thierry Roge/Belga.

Mark MacGann, the former Uber executive who leaked sensitive information about the company's lobbying practices, has been called before a Brussels parliamentary committee on 15 February. The committee's members will seek to clarify MacGann's "close" relationship with the region's Mobility Minister Pascal Smet.

Committee chairwoman Cieltje Van Achter confirmed the date of MacGann's planned testimony on Thursday. The hearing will seek to ascertain the content and intention of contact between the Brussels Mobility Minister Pascal Smet and the lobbyist. Uber has been the subject of an intense debate between lawmakers and established taxi services, who have been angered by the tech giant's model that they see as an existential challenge to their livelihood.

Uber has been known to follow an aggressive lobbying policy as it seeks to expand worldwide. Now Brussels wants to know how much the company tried to gain influence with its own regional regulators. Smet's proposed taxi plan in 2015 is of particular interest to the capital's authorities.

Backroom deals?

As Mobility Minister, Smet made a considerable effort to reform the capital's taxi laws. Part of his proposal would have seen Brussels become the first European city to legalise the use of Ubers, despite Smet's prior public criticism of the company.

Seven years later, leaked messages between the minister and the lobbyist showed that Smet was actively working with the multinational to further exempt their company from regulations. Moreover, the minister had asked MacGann for the multinational not to mention his name in internal communications.

Smet is also said to have met with MacGann on nine different occasions, all while exchanging "sexually charged" messages with one another.

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These findings made Smet one of the many European and American politicians to have been accused of colluding with Uber through undeclared lobbying, the extent of which was revealed by a global investigation released by The Guardian last summer.

The English newspaper, alongside other European outlets, unveiled data leaked by MacGann, which showed that Uber broke the law by duping authorities, all while exploiting drivers, during their worldwide expansion from 2013 to 2017.

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