Uber May Have to Reveal Financial Secrets in Driver SettlementPamela MacLean
Company says some metrics on fares, miles are trade secrets
Judge asks why value of drivers' claims isn't being disclosed
The judge who Uber Technologies Inc. is asking to approve its $100 million settlement with drivers isn’t keen on keeping key details of the accord a secret.
While Uber says some of its metrics are trade secrets that should remain sealed from public view, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen said Wednesday he’s not sure he has enough information to decide whether the deal announced last week is fair. He ordered lawyers for the company and the drivers to tell him why they don’t want to disclose the potential monetary value of the claims at stake in the three-year-old lawsuit that was set for trial on June 20.
“The parties are to explain why the potential value of the claims should not be publicly disclosed given the importance of this information in the court’s determination of the fairness and adequacy of a proposed class action settlement,” Chen wrote.
Shannon Liss-Riordan, the attorney for the drivers, said she agreed with the company to submit the settlement with some information sealed.
“It will be up to the court to decide about what if anything remains under seal,” she said in an e-mail.
Matt Kallman, a spokesman for Uber, declined to comment on the judge’s order.
Uber asked the judge to let it file under seal information about its most recent valuation, as well as data on the miles logged by drivers, gross fares and service fees on fares, all of which the company called trade secrets.
Chen said much of what the two sides don’t want to reveal is “highly material” to his evaluation of the settlement. He contrasted the secrecy in the case with other cases involving Uber and its smaller rival Lyft Inc. in which similar information was disclosed as part of the settlement approval process.
The settlement calls for Uber to pay as much as $100 million to about 385,000 drivers in California and Massachusetts and allows them to solicit tips from riders. The drivers would remain contract workers instead of employees.
Under the terms of the accord, Uber will initially pay $84 million to the drivers, with another $16 million contingent on the ride-share service going public and its valuation continuing to grow. As much as a quarter of the payout is earmarked for attorney fees.
With a valuation of $62.5 billion, Uber is the biggest firm in the sharing economy where a fight has been brewing over how companies classify workers. The settlement could guide other companies trying to address worker unrest.
The case is O’Connor v. Uber Technologies Inc., 13-cv-03826, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).