Herrera secures agreement with Lyft on subpoenaed operational data

Deal protects trade secrets while advancing City investigation into access, discrimination, safety and pay; Uber continues to thumb its nose at the law

SAN FRANCISCO (Feb. 14, 2018) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera today announced a deal with Lyft that will advance Herrera’s investigation into whether Uber and Lyft are following state and local laws on access, discrimination, safety and pay.

The agreement ensures that relevant city experts can review information reported annually by Lyft to the California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC, that was turned over under the subpoena. While Lyft produced that information in response to the subpoena, it originally insisted that City Attorney’s Office lawyers were the only people who could view it. That was an unacceptable barrier to the investigation, precluding experts on topics like traffic safety from viewing key information.

“This is a reasonable agreement that preserves Lyft’s trade secrets while advancing our investigation into whether these companies violated the rights of ordinary San Franciscans,” Herrera said.  “I want to commend Lyft for being sensible during this process and ultimately doing the right thing. I cannot say the same for Uber. For a company that is supposedly changing its culture, thumbing your nose at the law is a funny way of showing that you’re now a good corporate citizen. Uber has fought us at every turn, but the law is on our side. Uber should follow Lyft’s lead — and the law.”

Herrera issued subpoenas on June 5, 2017 to Lyft, Uber and Uber’s affiliates as part of his investigation into whether the ride-hailing companies and their estimated 45,000 drivers are creating a public nuisance in San Francisco by jeopardizing public safety, discriminating or otherwise violating local and state laws.  

The administrative subpoenas seek four years of records in eight categories, including miles and hours logged by drivers, incentives that encourage drivers to “commute” to San Francisco from the Central Valley and Los Angeles, driver guidance and training, accessible vehicle information, and the routes taken by these drivers in San Francisco.

Both Uber and Lyft initially challenged the subpoenas in court. Lyft has since complied with much of the subpoena, and agreed in court to work toward full compliance.  But Lyft had designated the data in one category, their annual reports to the CPUC, as “HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL—ATTORNEYS’ EYES ONLY.”

The new agreement gives relevant experts in areas like traffic safety and law enforcement access to that data, solely for the purpose of assisting Herrera’s investigation. The City will continue to preserve any bona fide trade secrets in those reports by safeguarding them from public disclosure or disclosure to competitors like Uber.

After fighting every step of the way in and out of court, Uber has produced very few documents, and very little data, in response to any of the eight categories in the City’s subpoenas. It has refused to disclose its annual reports to the CPUC, or any of the contents thereof. A San Francisco Superior Court judge ordered Uber to turn over that information to the City, but Uber appealed.

In a separate case in federal court, where Waymo sued Uber over the alleged theft of trade secrets, news reports indicate it was revealed at trial that Uber trained its employees to “impede, obstruct or influence the investigation of several ongoing lawsuits against Uber.”

“Lyft’s compliance shows that Uber’s arguments here are baseless,” Herrera said. “It’s time for Uber’s obstruction to end.”

The cases are: City and County of San Francisco v. Uber Technologies, Inc. et al., San Francisco Superior Court Case No. CPF-17-515767, filed July 21, 2017, and City and County of San Francisco v. Lyft, Inc., San Francisco Superior Court Case No. CPF-17-515768, filed July 21, 2017. Additional documentation from the two cases is available on the City Attorney’s website at: sfcityattorney.org