Uber Fired Lawyers Amid Debate Over Data Retention Policy

Uber fired two in-house lawyers before New Year’s after an internal debate over a proposed change in Uber’s policy related to how long internal documents and other company data are retained, according to people briefed about the episode. The lawyers went outside the company to get advice from several law firms, a move Uber deemed a breach of ethical and fiduciary duty because they allegedly made the outreach without authorization.

The firings caused unrest within Uber’s litigation team and was followed by the departure of three other lawyers over the next few months. Uber had a litigation team of 13 lawyers as of December. While it hired some lawyers to replace those who left, it has three openings currently. The turnover came as the company was thrust into legal travails by a trade-secrets lawsuit filed by Alphabet’s Waymo as well as a cascade of revelations about its workplace culture and competitive intelligence programs in recent months. 

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The lawsuit filed by Mr. Spangenberg, in which he said his employment at Uber was wrongly terminated, has been in a binding arbitration process since October of last year. Uber has said he was fired for accessing sensitive company information without authorization.

Stacey Giamalis commented on this article.
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Many companies routinely purge data, such as emails, texts or instant messages, at set time periods unless prospective or ongoing lawsuits require them to preserve it. That makes the policy relevant to the in-house litigation team.