As Uber internally investigates its Asia business dealings, a corporate donation to MaGIC has come under scrutiny
Uber once again finds itself in the headlines after news broke yesterday that the company is investigating its Asia operations to determine if it broke US bribery laws.
About halfway down an article in Bloomberg, the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (or MaGIC) was cited as being a focus of the investigation. The impetus for the probe is a corporate donation of tens of thousands of dollars that was made public in August of 2016.
The reason the donation is receiving scrutiny is because at about the same time the Malaysian pension fund Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (Diperbadankan) invested US$30 million in the ride-hailing company.
Malaysia has also progressively loosened its approach towards the ride-hailing industry as a whole.
In the Bloomberg article, journalist Eric Newcomer wrote,
“Lawyers are trying to determine whether there was any form of quid pro quo.”
MaGIC has strongly denied any allegations of quid pro quo. In a statement to e27, a spokesperson said:
“We strongly refute our involvement in any quid-pro-quo arrangements. At MaGIC we regularly collaborate with corporates, offering strategic platforms and initiatives to connect them with Malaysia’s leading entrepreneurial talent. As part of our efforts to help build a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, these partnerships help inspire young entrepreneurs at the ideation stage, bridging a gap in our ecosystem.”
According to Bloomberg, the deal was struck by Emil Michael and Eric Alexander.
Alexander was fired by Uber after it was discovered he obtained the medical records of a person who was raped by an Uber driver and then showed them to then-CEO Travis Kalanick.
Emil Michael was a Senior Vice President of Business and close confidant to Kalanick. Michael was pressured to resign amidst the corporate culture controversy that embroiled Uber last spring and eventually led to the resignation of Kalanick.
The Uber probe is also looking into potential bribery cases in China, India Indonesia and South Korea.
MaGIC is an tech startup community builder backed by the Malaysian government with its headquarters in Cyberjaya near Kuala Lumpur.