Judge Rakoff Hammers Uber For Trying to Dig Up Dirt on Yale Research Assistant

Uber hired a private investigative firm to dig up dirt on a Spencer Meyer, a research assistant at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.



Because Meyer had the nerve to sue Uber for price fixing.

In a blistering 31-page decision handed down last week, Judge Jed Rakoff wrote that “it is a sad day when, in response to the filing of a commercial lawsuit, a corporate defendant feels compelled to hire unlicensed private investigators to conduct secret personal background investigations of both the plaintiff and his counsel.”

“It is sadder yet when these investigators flagrantly lie to friends and acquaintances of the plaintiff and his counsel in an (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to obtain derogatory information about them.”

After the lawsuit was filed by Meyer in December 2015, Uber hired a private investigative firm — Global Precision Research — doing business as Ergo.

An Uber executive emailed Ergo asking for  “a sensitive, very under the radar investigation that I need on an individual here in the U.S.”

Ergo agreed to undertake the investigation and file a report that “highlights all derogatories.”

Ergo sent out its investigator to interview Meyer’s friends telling them that for part of a research project he was “attempting to verify the professional record and/or previous employment of various up-and-coming researchers in environmental conservation,”

Having learned that Meyer’s attorney, Andrew Schmidt’s law practice focused on labor law matters, Ergo’s investigator told a source that he was engaged in a “project profiling top up-and-coming labor lawyers in the US.”

Rakoff said he could not but be “troubled by this whole dismal incident.”

Rakoff found that Ergo’s investigation was “fraudulent and arguably criminal conduct.”

“Potential plaintiffs and their counsel need to know that they can sue companies they perceive to be violating the law without having lies told to their friends and colleagues so that their litigation adversaries can identify ‘derogatories.’: Rakoff wrote.

Rakoff did not impose sanctions on Uber or Ergo, but noted that the defendants had agreed to pay the costs associated with the issue. The price fixing matter is pending before Rakoff.

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