Uber paid academics up to $100,000 for research used to spearhead positive media coverage

Uber paid academics up to $100,000 for research used to spearhead positive media coverage
  • Uber paid out six-figure fees to academics for positive research used in the media, the Uber Files revealed.
  • The tech company funded academic research to use as ammunition in politics and the media.

Uber paid consultants fees of up to $100,000 to academics in 2015 in order to steer favorable press coverage and paint a positive image of the company, The Guardian has revealed.

Professor Augustin Landier, a French economist, negotiated a €100,000 ($100,064) fee to produce a report that would be "actionable" for the company's public relations team to "prove Uber's positive economic role."

Professor David Thesmar, another high-profile economist who was working at the École des Hautes Études Commerciales de Paris at the time, worked with Landier on the project.

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Speaking to the Financial Times for a story on Uber's operations in France, Thesmar described the ride-sharing app as a "social game-changer." Thesmar now works as a professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management.

The 2016 FT article was titled "Uber: a route out of the French banlieues," referring to deprived suburbs on the outskirts of Paris and other cities. It included testimony from a number of people who praised Uber for creating jobs, including one man who said the service saved him from a life of crime.


The story was celebrated internally. One person said, "Wow!" — praising the team which "landed it," The Guardian reported.

The FT told the Guardian that the story was based on extensive research and that it was not directly approached by Uber PR about the story. The story contains reporting on the downsides of working for Uber, including the story of one man who said working 13-hour days driving for the company yielded lower pay than a previous temporary job.

The revelations are part of a series of reports on Uber's tactics to influence politicians and the press, dubbed The Uber Files. On Monday, the whistleblower who leaked thousands of documents to the newspaper revealed himself as Mark MacGann, a former career lobbyist at Uber.

In Uber's response to the investigation, senior vice-president of public affairs Jill Hazelbaker said, "We've moved from an era of confrontation to one of collaboration, demonstrating a willingness to come to the table and find common ground with former opponents, including labour unions and taxi companies."

Professors Landier and Thesmar did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.


They told The Guardian that their paid consultancy fees were properly declared and made transparent.