Sunday, October 30, 2016

Uber: Labor Disputes and Air Transport Visions

  • Last week, comments by a London employment tribunal on the status of Uber drivers included:
  • “We have reached the conclusion that any driver who (a) has the App switched on, (b) is within the territory in which he is authorized to work, and (c) is able and willing to accept assignments, is, for so long as those conditions are satisfied, working for Uber under a ‘worker’ contract and a contract within each of the extended definitions”
  • “Any organization ... resorting in its documentation to fictionstwisted language and even brand new terminology, merits, we think, a degree of skepticism
  • "The notion that Uber in London is a mosaic of 30,000 small businesses linked by a common ‘platform’ is to our minds faintly ridiculous” and 
  • “We are satisfied that the supposed driver/passenger contract is a pure fiction which bears no relation to the real dealings and relationships between the parties.” 
  • Separately,Uber released the report “Fast-Forwarding to a Future of On-Demand Urban Air Transportation” which said “On-demand aviation, has the potential to radically improve urban mobility, giving people back time lost in their daily commutes. Uber is close to the commute pain that citizens in cities around the world feel. We view helping to solve this problem as core to our mission and our commitment to our rider base. Just as skyscrapers allowed cities to use limited land more efficiently, urban air transportation will use three-dimensional airspace to alleviate transportation congestion on the ground. A network of small, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically … will enable rapid, reliable transportation between suburbs and cities and, ultimately, within cities.”

  • Regarding the labor dispute – Uber will likely appeal the findings as it defends itself from similar legal challengers around the world.  Consumers will continue to benefit from Uber’s “sharing economy” business model; while litigation, union activism and regulatory scrutiny will likely impact its profitability. 
  • Regarding on-demand air transport – “Jestons-style” air travel will require the development of new vehicle navigation systems and a significant upgrade to air traffic control infrastructures to manage the flow of these vehicles. Uber will also need to improving its relationship with varied government regulators.  

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Updates on the Challenges at Yahoo and Wells Fargo

  • Last week, commenting on Yahoo’s massive data breach and the potential impact on its $4.8 billion acquisition by Verizon CommunicationsVerizon General Counsel Craig Silliman said “I think we have a reasonable basis to believe right now that the impact is material and we’re looking to Yahoo to demonstrate to us the full impact. If they believe that it’s not [material], then they’ll need to show us that … We still have a significant way to go in terms of the information we need to get before we can make our final determinations”  and 
  • Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said “we are still understanding what was going on and defining whether it was a material impact on the business or not.”
  • Statements from Yahoo included “We are confident in Yahoo’s value and we continue to work toward integration with Verizon” and “Due to the pending transaction with Verizon, Yahoo will not have an earnings call or webcast for its third quarter results.”
  • Regarding the controversial sales practices at Wells Fargo, the company said “Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Stumpf has informed the Company’s Board of Directors that he is retiring from the Company and the Board, effective immediately” [and noted that Stumpf] “believes new leadership at this time is appropriate to guide Wells Fargo through its current challenges and take the Company forward.”
  • Regarding Yahoo – The lack of disclosure by Yahoo management about the breach will require Verizon to reassess many assumptions in its due diligence process of the acquisition.  Additionally, as some Yahoo mail users migrate to alternative platforms, the asset value of Yahoo is declining. Verizon management seems well positioned to seek concessions.  
  • Regarding Well Fargo – The firm’s controversial sales practices occurred under Stumpf's watch – and his testimony on the matter to the U.S Congress was not well received.  The new CEO (a Wells Fargo insider) will need to address continuing litigation as well as increased regulatory scrutiny.