Uber CLO Tony West Navigates Legal Potholes and Steers Toward Vertical Transportation

58 minutes · August 13, 2019

The rapid ascent of Uber (NYSE: UBER) from nascent idea to a global brand for ridesharing, food delivery, and scooter-sharing, among much more, brought legal challenges that peaked in 2017. That’s when CEO Dara Khosrowshahi lured Tony West from PepsiCo to lead the company’s legal department for the stretch drive toward Uber’s May 2019 IPO. With that chapter done, Tony discusses Uber’s future, which won’t remain earthbound for long, and how his career in politics and government has prepared him for what comes next.

Speaker 1 (00:03):

From the library of the New York Stock Exchange at the corner of wall and broad streets in New York City, you're Inside the ICE House, our podcast from Intercontinental Exchange on markets, leadership and vision and global business. The dream drivers that have made the NYSE an indispensable institution of global growth for over 225 years. Each week, we feature stories of those who had plans, create jobs and harness the engine of capitalism right here, right now at the NYCE and at ICE's 12 exchanges and six clearing houses around the world. And now welcome Inside the ICE House, here's your host, Josh king of Intercontinental Exchange.

Josh King (00:42):

Let me take you back to late spring 1988. I got my first job in politics, working on a presidential campaign headquarters in Boston. You might be able to guess the candidate, at any rate I'm living at my parents' house in the suburbs. Campaigns don't pay much then, they don't pay much now, unless you feel the polls or create the TV spots. And to get to work everyday, I pop a few quarters into the receptacle on the T Subway and take the Green Line from Woodland to Park Street. One of my office mates is another idealistic man named, Tony West. Fast forward 31 years. I'm working here at the New York Stock Exchange, same time of year, May 9th, to be specific, to get to work that day. I take out my iPhone open up the Uber app. The car scoops me up a few minutes later and before long I'm overlooking the initial public offering of that very company, ticker symbol, Uber U-B-E-R from the balcony.

Josh King (01:43):

And there's my old friend, Tony west, along with CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi and John Thain, once the CEO of this place from 2004 to 2007. And now on Uber's board, watching closely as [Pichi Achi 00:01:58] from Citadel balances the buy and sell orders before the stock opens. How long we've come from that subway ride to that Uber ride on so many levels. We live in a world where the next great startup can change our lives in ways we couldn't possibly imagine. At first glance names like Pinterest, Slack, Spotify, or Uber, frankly sounds strange to us, yet they become etched into our daily routine. And for many, it's tough to imagine life without them. We're just past the halfway mark in 2019, and looking back on the first half of the year, three of those companies I mentioned, Slack, Pinterest and Uber have all gone public on the New York Stock Exchange. Spotify made its entrance last year, marking our first ever direct floor listing.

Josh King (02:45):

Now, if I have to explain Uber to you, you've been living under a rock, our own Jeff Sprecher, the founder, chairman and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange loves to point out that, we put more trust in what people do with their fingers to rate the quality of one of those who drive us from point to point than we put in government, a parable for our time really about where trust is really formed. That trust is valuable. Building it and keeping it grows businesses and losing it can make them founder. Uber has lived that story. Founded a decade ago, it's a multi-national transportation network company offering peer-to-peer ride sharing, food delivery and a bike and scooter sharing system. The tech company currently has an estimated 110 million customers with a market cap of 75 and a half billion dollars. It's shares traded right here under this roof.

Josh King (03:38):

And while the Uber IPO is behind it, it continues to navigate its issues as a ride sharing company. It's cop on the beat is Tony West. The company's general counsel, who is Dara's first hire when he came on board, bringing West onboard in 2017 from PepsiCo where he was GC under CEO, Indra Nooyi. Preparing one of the largest IPOs ever listed in the US, the legal challenge is facing ride sharing and what the future holds for transportation. Our conversation with Tony West right after this.

Speaker 1 (04:12):

And now our word from Chip Bergh, CEO of Levi Strauss and company. NYS ticker, L-E-V-I.

Chip Bergh (04:20):

There's no other brand in the world like Levi, we're here today because of the dedication of the 15,000 employees that we have around the world. Growth has being driven across the company, mans, womens, tops, bottoms, outerwear, virtually every country in the world grew last year, being associated with an institution that goes back [inaudible 00:04:43] Levi is special. This is where this company deserves today.

Josh King (04:50):

Tony West's career has taken him on a cross country tour. It began on the quad of Harvard yard where Tony majored in government and served as publisher of the Harvard Political Review. After graduation, at first of several detours into politics, as I mentioned before the break, and then on to Stanford Law, where he served as president of the Stanford Law Review. And from there, his career has been a remarkable mix of work in both the public and private sector. Through it all, a passion for service and fighting for change remains core. Tony, welcome Inside the ICE House.

Tony West (05:21):

Josh, it is good to be with you. And I want you to know you have not changed in 30 years.

Josh King (05:25):

Oh, come on now. That's crazy. I mean, I remember our days on Chauncey Street, we were just kids.

Tony West (05:32):

105 Chauncey Street, absolutely. It's funny the arc between then and now, I know for both of us, I think that was our first presidential. And presidential politics, let's just say, has changed quite a bit in the last three decades.

Josh King (05:48):

And not only has it changed a bit and we'll get to this sort of the second half of the show, but you are right in the thick of it again, man.

Tony West (05:54):

Right. It's true. That's true. Different vantage point.

Josh King (05:57):

Last time you visited New York Stock Exchange, it was when Uber was ringing the opening bell for what would be one of the largest IPOs ever listed in the United States, share your thoughts and feelings going through your head at that moment when we met up that day.

Tony West (06:11):

It was such an amazing day in so many respects. First, I think it's an amazing thing for any company to go public. In the life journey of a company to be able to meet that milestone is an incredible accomplishment. It was a day of great pride for so many people. Austin Geidt, who is one of the first employees at Uber came as an intern actually rang the bell. So for so many of us, old and new, we felt great pride in having reached that milestone. But part of it was because in many ways we weren't really sure we'd ever get there, at least not get there as quickly as we did.

Tony West (06:57):

When Dara was hired, when I was hired, we were in a situation where we had albeit the company case with Waymo. Going on, we had lost our license to operate in London, which is one of our largest markets. We had a board that was really at war with itself. There were actual lawsuits. And so when you fast forward 18 months after that point in time, the fact that we could be here at the stock exchange ringing the bell, joining the family of public companies is a really remarkable journey.

Josh King (07:32):

I mean, Travis was here, Dara was here. That question about who will actually ring the opening bell is always sort of one of the existential things that company faces. You go to Austin Geidt, one of the earliest employees of Uber. She started as an intern and there she was the head of strategy for Uber's Advanced Tech Group, the ATG. How did you settle on Austin as the person who's going to ring that bell?

Tony West (07:56):

Well, it was really Dara's decision. And it was not a difficult decision at all. It was interesting hearing the conversation. I won't say was obvious, but it was almost obvious that that was the right thing. And once folks had settled on that, which was very, very quick, the decision was made not to tell Austin, to make it a surprise until fairly close to the day. And amazingly, we were able to keep that secret.

Josh King (08:25):

So you say it was a moment that almost never happened given all of the complexities running up to that moment, but you do get there the run-up to the IPO from those initial discussions to the road show, how was the experience going through the IPO process? You've been at a company PepsiCo, founded in 1898, Uber was founded in 2009, a very different animal to ride legal heard over.

Tony West (08:48):

That's right. It's interesting because the IPO journey itself is just a unique experience. And I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in that. I will say that, one of the things that is most memorable of that whole process is the roadshow. I joined Nelson, our CFO, excuse me. And Dara the CEO-

Josh King (09:14):

An alumni of this organization.

Tony West (09:16):

Absolutely right. And Nelson Chai, and I joined the two of them on the road. And so we spent a lot of time together. And it gave us an opportunity to reflect about how far the company had come in such a short period of time, but also how remarkable it was to be stepping into almost this new incarnation of who we were as a company, the responsibility that comes with that, the accountability that comes with that, it was all somewhat momentous force. And so I really enjoyed not only spending, we all spent probably more time with each other than we ever planned to, but it was a really great opportunity to both reflect and prepare as we thought about the company and where it ought to go.

Josh King (10:04):

News coverage coming out of the road show was very positive. You're not saying anything, but you are getting some reporting, some leaks, maybe from people that you're meeting with across the table, anything through that process throw you for a loop or was it all pretty much what you expected?

Tony West (10:19):

I think it was actually pretty much what we expected. By the time we went on the road, we had a very good sense of what our challenges were, of what investors would be most interested in, and we had a very clear sense of where we wanted to take the company. And so putting all of that together in a narrative, that was cogent and persuasive, that preparation really, I think meant that, on the road, we really didn't get anything that was unexpected. We got pressed certainly on certain issues, obviously path to profitability. What's the power of the platform mean? And how do you harness the leverage across that platform? Things that you've learned in rides and eats, how do you leverage that and freight? And how do you leverage it, and [Nimo 00:11:06] and other big bets? But we expected that, and we expect it to be put to the test. And I think we did pretty well.

Josh King (11:13):

You've sat in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee several times for Senate confirmation, I think. You've had to rehearse your script, you've had to go through murder boards, the toughest questions the senators would throw at you as you're on the road show, doing the same pitch, the same narrative over and over again. You can tell me how many times, but did you ever get tired of listening to the same story coming out of your Nelson's and Dara's?

Tony West (11:34):

All the time. It was funny because there was definitely a point in the road show where we knew each other's scripts so well we could easily fill in. And indeed, sometimes we would take questions that weren't in our own daily [inaudible 00:11:49] week simply because we understood the answers pretty well at that point. That was a kind of funny. Though, I think were the hardest things, when you're going through this is trying to remember what stories and what examples you've already given, so that you're not repeating yourself in the same meeting, and that you have to really pay attention for that.

Josh King (12:10):

Prior to the opening bell, that day, May 9th, Dara shared an Uber ride with CNBC, Andrew Ross Sorkin. I want to hear what Dara had to say about the future of mobility and what it looks like through Uber. Let's hear, and listen.

Dara (12:25):

What is the future of mobility actually look like? First of all, it's got to be electric. We think that's a no brainer. It's good for the environment. It's where the world is going. And we're playing our part, for example, in London, to move it electric. We think mobility has to be shared. We're sharing this ride. We're investing in pool technology to get more than one person to a vehicle. New is we believe it's got to be [inaudible 00:12:53] in that cars can't be the only transportation solution in cities. And we've got to create other transportation solutions such as bikes and scooters. And I think we are at the very beginning of the personal electric mobility revolution within urban centers, and I'm very, very optimistic about. We think that transportation is going to go vertical, just as residential buildings have gone vertical, especially here in New York, vertical-

Andrew Ross Sorkin (13:22):

In the air.

Dara (13:23):

In the air. If you've got cities in three dimensions and getting higher and higher and higher, you cannot have a transportation grid that's in two dimensions.

Josh King (13:32):

I mean, it's a fascinating conversation, Tony, and I want to break it down maybe in four quick parts, because after I saw you on the floor, I started looking at your Twitter feed, and I know that you have this unique purchase, general council, you go to a lot of events, you see a lot of incredible things, you tweet out a lot of pictures of the stuff you're seeing. And you began to experience a lot of the things that Dara is imagining just in that quick little response to what Sorkin says. So let's begin, future is going to be electric.

Tony West (14:00):

Future has to be electric, absolutely. And this is where we have great opportunities to partner with cities around the world. Congestion is a real concern, and it's important for us to have a proposition for cities that don't add to that issue. When you add to that climate change and all of the concerns around climate, we want to make sure that the transportation solutions that we are offering the cities and the partnerships that we're offering to cities actually makes things better from a climate perspective instead of exacerbating the problem. And so whether you're talking about electric vehicles, where we have partnered with the mayor of London to commit to an all electric vehicle fleet by time certain, or you talk about the fact that when we think about the future of moving people over cities, through elevate, through VTOL, which will be vertical takeoff and landing, and those will be all electric. And everything in between, bikes and scooters, what have you. Electric really is the one concept unifying theory that connects all of that.

Josh King (15:10):

I was going to go through all four of them, but you covered them there. But I want to hone in on VTOL a little bit, because it does give you this image of one of the later star wars movies, and so much other science fiction, where people are moving through space and cities are very vertical, whether they are suspended in the air, or just going up a hundred floors. I mean, Tony, you've come from government and politics, you came from soft drinks and snacks at PepsiCo, now you're in the middle of this, does is it blow mind?

Tony West (15:40):

Well, it definitely blows your mind just being able to spend time with some of the smartest people on the planet who are thinking of how to move people in different ways, more efficient ways, cleaner ways. So it's a privilege in that respect to be able to work with some of the smartest people in the world. But it's also a natural outgrowth of where we need to go when it comes to effectively, efficiently moving people from point A to point B. If you think about electric vehicles, for instance, if you think about cars, and you think about autonomous.

Tony West (16:12):

Clearly when you think about autonomous vehicles, what we want to see is a transition over time to an autonomous fleet that is completely electric, and is smart enough to move people effectively and efficiently from point A to point B. Interestingly enough, we see for a long period of time always to have the need for human drivers, because what computers are good at, the repetition, repetitive tasks, the things which are fairly straightforward to negotiate, humans are much better at the complex tasks of driving. So even in that transition to electric autonomous, you always going to need to have human drivers in that equation. And for those human drivers, making sure that they have access to electric vehicles, clean vehicles. Solutions like that is important.

Josh King (17:06):

Human drivers and human passengers no matter how they are transported, whether behind the wheel or autonomously they got to eat. And on the day of the IPO, just outside the stock exchange, unexperienced square representatives from Uber Eats were on hand, doling out egg McMuffins and quarter pounders to promote your food delivery partnership with McDonald's. Explain how Uber Eats is growing, and how it has opened up a whole new channel for Uber, not only as a ride sharing company, but as a food delivery service.

Tony West (17:34):

Well, it's growing very, very quickly. I think when you look at the growth rates there... And this is not just true for Uber Eats, it's also going to be true for other food delivery services that you see, but clearly it is a high growth business for us. It's exciting because we view it as part of our core. And we believe that, this idea of being able to create enormous selection for individuals to be able to get whatever they want in terms of food, right from, basically their restaurant of choice within 30 minutes, that is an amazing concept.

Tony West (18:19):

And it's one that we continue to execute and perfect over time with Uber Eats. It's interesting too, because there's an interesting tie into the VTOL technology, because part of what we are developing is not just to be able to serve urban centers effectively through Uber Eats, but also as we develop our drone technology, we develop VTOL technology, the ability to be able to make sure that that same time horizon, short time horizon is accessible to people even in the suburbs to be able to order from their favorite restaurant downtown.

Josh King (19:00):

Before 2017, your an average guy like me, you're either living in Washington, probably using Uber to get home from the DOJ after one of those late nights, or you're up in purchase New York at Pepsi's headquarters doing the same thing. And you have no idea that eventually the call is going to come from Dara, but we all had our perceptions of this business that we were increasingly relying on whether for transportation or to get a meal delivered to us. What are your perceptions of the company before you even got that call? What were you thinking about? As you watch some of the news unfold, frankly, that wasn't always that favorable.

Tony West (19:34):

Oh yeah. Absolutely. I was very aware of what was going on in 2017. In fact, to your point, I was at PepsiCo, true story, meeting with one of my lawyers in the spring of 17 in my office at PepsiCo. And after the meeting, there's a New York Times on the table and I pick it up and I start to read. And there's this front page story above the fold all about Uber, delete Uber, the Susan Fowler blog, the troubles with the board. And it just went into this horror story about what was going on. And I remember finishing that article and tossing the paper on my table and saying to my colleague, "Man, I'm glad I'm not the GC of that company, they've got some real problems."

Tony West (20:21):

And of course, fast forward a few months, and now I'm the GC of that company with some real problems. But one of the things that was so attractive to the opportunity was, when you think about what an incredible brand proposition Uber is, it is not only a brand that is ubiquitous, it's a brand that has really, as you pointed out in your intro, seeped deeply into our pop culture, our social culture, our nomenclature. Uber is both a noun and a verb. When a brand reaches that type of saturation, coupled with the scale that Uber has, we do 16 million rides a day, at least 45 rides per second. When you put all of that together, it creates an opportunity to have real impact at scale.

Tony West (21:14):

And so for me, and I know Josh, you're very similar in this way, I've always tried to choose those opportunities that I would pursue from a career standpoint, go to a place that's making a difference where you can make an impact. And when you put those two things together, as I think we've done here at Uber, I think you can demonstrate that you can really make a huge positive impact by taking a chance as it were. At the time people weren't so sure. I was doing the right thing, but I think looking back, I think there's no question that I made the right decision.

Josh King (21:53):

So you're at the Pepsi HQ, you're reading the paper, you're tossing out on the table in a sort of Obama like way, I'm glad I don't work there, but then you do get the call. I mean, how does Dara find you? And what are your thoughts? And how quickly does it turn over that you're going to move out, West?

Tony West (22:10):

I think it took a little bit of time in terms of them reaching out to [inaudible 00:22:15] they reached out to me and had some initial conversations. Initially I wasn't interested, this is before Dara came on board. And then, after Dara started, of course they had gone through then the Eric Holder report, the Holder report. My former boss and friend, good friend who had really done a top to bottom look at Uber's culture and governance and made some very specific recommendations in his report. They went through that process in the summer of 17, Dara's hiring was actually one of the outgrowths of that report. And at that point they reached back out to me and... There are a number of folks including Eric who suggested that, I should just go and meet Dara.

Tony West (23:03):

And so we did. We met here in New York, we met at a Steakhouse on sixth. And what was supposed to be a 30 minute meeting turned into an hour long meeting, where we were talking about this incredible company, which I had fallen in love with as a consumer years before. I was already someone who really had it on my phone, used it all the time. But this incredible company, the challenges it was facing, what it would take to turn around the culture, to turn around the legal problems, to begin to unlock the enormous potential that this company had, and the fact that he needed a partner, and in getting that done.

Tony West (23:48):

And I left that meeting in a very different mind space, in terms of both thinking about what an incredible opportunity this was. Clearly the challenges the company was facing at that time really fit my resume. They needed help with regulators, I had been a regulator. They needed someone who understood the governance of a public company, I'd been the GC of one of the largest public companies in the world. And so when you begin to put it all together, it seemed like such a perfect match. And the rest as they say is history.

Josh King (24:23):

There's so many things that you've had to tackle when you walk through the door, I want to tick through three of it, probably have engendered a bunch of news articles in their own right. But get a sense from you like, problem, solution, how you addressed these issues as they came up. First, independent workers. In June, Dara, paid a joint op ed in the San Francisco Chronicle with Logan Green and John Zimmer, the co-founders of Lyft on the topic of independent workers, also known as contractors and the legal challenges surrounding current employment laws. How do you weigh in on the subject right now and what steps Uber is taking to address independent workers rights?

Tony West (25:02):

So we're actually talking with stakeholders, namely labor, in trying to create a framework that would address independent work. Next time you're in an Uber ask your driver, what's the thing they like most about driving? They may tell you some things they don't like, and I listen to that too, because it's important feedback from our customer. But almost universally, what they'll tell you they like is the flexibility. Nobody tells them when to go to work, how to work, where to drive, they make those decisions every time they decide to do a trip. And that independence, they can work for three weeks straight and then not work for six months and then come right back onto the platform, as long as they are in good standing, meaning, they haven't committed any crimes or done anything that would get them deactivated from the platform.

Tony West (25:53):

They always have the opportunity to work, and always have the opportunity to engage. And that's a powerful on their terms. That's a very powerful thing. And so the question is, how do we create a framework that allows for the flexibility of independent work? While at the same time allowing for, and providing the same kinds of securities that you do find in traditional employment, because it is important for people not to feel like they have to make this choice between flexibility and security. You got to be able to have both in a 21st century economy. And so what does security look like? Security looks like portable benefits that are robust. Your paid time off. If something happens to you or to your vehicle, there's a way in which you can still make an income. Access to lifelong learning opportunities, robust benefits as well as transparency and stability in earnings.

Tony West (26:53):

One of the things that we do here that can sometimes be a pain point for drivers is their inability to predict exactly how much they're going to earn. Or at least, sometimes you go out and you'll drive and you'll make a whole bunch, and then other times you'll go out and you'll drive and you won't make much at all. And so being able to plan a little bit better and understand what the stability of that earnings flow looks like is an important thing for drivers. And so, one of the things we put on the table is, in our conversations in California are sort of similar to the driver earning standard that we have here in New York, we would certainly endorse a standard driver earnings standard. So that drivers can have a floor, they can always make more, but at least a floor that would be an earning standard, plus expenses, so that there is some stability and some guarantee that they won't dip below a certain level.

Tony West (27:51):

And so trying to make sure that we create those things plus a way for drivers to be heard, for them to be represented, for their voices to be a part of the process when we're setting standards and setting policies that govern the ride share industry, we want to be able to create a mechanism that will allow them to have that voice. And so when you put those three pillars together, robust benefits, an earning standard, plus expenses, and a way to have a representation that is meaningful. Those are three legs of a stool that I think begin to create a framework for independent work in the 21st century that is meaningful, that's work with dignity, and offers both flexibility and security.

Josh King (28:36):

You ever sign up on the platform and take some sample rise to sort of see what it's like?

Tony West (28:41):

I have downloaded the app. We have to do a couple of things, because if I drive around San Francisco too many people I think would recognize me. I can't drive in San Francisco, but we're looking for a place where I can actually be a driver myself.

Josh King (28:57):

The second big issue, very serious one is, safety. Again, you're coming from servicing government and also a huge company that always worries about product safety, but product safety as it relates to what you deliver at Uber.

Tony West (29:10):

Safety is priority number one. This is one of the main things that I've focused on since I've come to Uber is, how do you improve the safety of the platform, particularly the safety of the platform for women? Because if you make it safer for women, you're going to make it safer for everyone. We know from the New York Times and other sources that women experience travel differently, that they think of things have to... Are forced really to think of and consider things that men simply take for granted. And so if we began to think about creating a platform that meets that high safety bar, then it's one that works universally. You talked about trust in the beginning, in the opening to the podcast, trust is something you have to earn every day. And part of the way you earn that trust is by always striving to be the safest platform that will transport people from point A to point B.

Tony West (30:11):

And whether that's asking people to entrust you with the safety of themselves or their loved ones, or you're asking them to trust you with their data. Safety has to be at the core of what people think of when they think, I want to go and take an Uber here or there. And so we spend a lot of time, we invest a lot in the technology. We've rolled out a number of product features which enhance the safety of the platform. We've got the SOS button, of course that will automatically connect you with 911 if that's necessary. We have a way to put in trusted contacts. So that loved ones that you have, or friends can know exactly when you're taking a trip, where it begins, where it ends. My wife uses this all the time with me, I see every trip that she does, and it gives me great peace of mind. But there are a number of other things in the safety toolkit, which we hope will continue to enhance the safety of the product. And we're continuing to iterate on that and trying to improve that every day.

Josh King (31:18):

I'll just do one more with you, which is the third, and that's autonomous transportation. In March 2018, just a few months after you came on board, a self-driving Uber killed a pedestrian, that interview Dara did with Andrew Ross Sorkin was in a self-driving car. The issues of what autonomous transportation means are myriad, but how does it relate to the legal issues that you got to wrestle with?

Tony West (31:43):

Well, look, I mean, the autonomous vehicle industry is a nascent industry. And when you look at other industries, whether it's aviation or any other industry like that, it obviously goes through a period where it's continually trying to become more and more safe, and that's going to be true for our industry as well. I will tell you that, our company and particularly folks who worked in the ATG unit were absolutely heartbroken when Ms Hertzberg was killed in Tempe, Arizona, by that autonomous vehicle. And one of the first things we did was to order a top to bottom safety review, which is not remarkable. Again, this happens in the aviation industry, for instance, if there is a-

Josh King (32:34):

It happened in the Apollo Program. Here we are 50 years after Apollo 11 and Apollo 1 had a terrible safety accident that caused them to stand down, and look top to bottom at the whole program.

Tony West (32:43):

That's exactly right. And we did the same thing too. We grounded our fleet. We did a top to bottom safety review. We hired Chris Hart. Who's a former chairman of the NTSB to put together a team and to conduct that review. But one thing we did, which was different than what you'd see in most industries, we did not shroud that report under attorney client privilege, because what we decided we would do, and we decided this early on is that, it was important for this to be a public report. It was important because we knew this was a very critical moment in a nascent industry. We knew the way that we reacted to this accident, the first fatality of involving an autonomous vehicle, we knew the way that we reacted to that would set a precedent. And so we wanted to make sure that we set the right precedent.

Tony West (33:39):

When we came in, Dara and I, we have a north star called, do the right thing, period. And everyone in the company is familiar with that. And we decided that to do the right thing here would be to make this report public. And so that's what we did, and you can find it on the internet today. And what it does, it shows you what our safety profile look like, it shows you the things that we did right, shows you things that we can improve on. But we think that's an important metric of public accountability that will continue to help us improve our safety profile, not just at ATG, but throughout the company.

Josh King (34:16):

One of your upon arriving at Uber was to build a world-class legal team. And in order to achieve that, you knew your team needed to bring a diverse set of opinions and experiences. In fact, I think we found was that 10 of the 14 people you hired or promoted to join your team were women. And you were quoted as saying, you have to be intentional, you have to walk the talk. Explain that for our listeners.

Tony West (34:38):

Well, it means just that. I mean, we talked about doing the right thing. I talked about the importance of acting with transparency, integrity, and accountability in everything we did. And I talked about the importance of being intentional about reaching diversity goals. In fact, yesterday we just released our diversity report. And what it shows is, it shows that we've made progress. We've made progress, but we're not yet there. And in fact, you're never there-

Josh King (35:09):

[crosstalk 00:35:09].

Tony West (35:09):

... Because when you're talking about diversity and inclusion, when you're talking about culture, it's not a destination, it's always a journey.

Josh King (35:14):


Tony West (35:14):

There's always improvement. While I'm glad there was improvement, I think that report also shows that there's much more work to be done. That said, it's important that part of how do you get that work done is that, you are looking at your numbers and you're thinking about the values that you want to bring into your company, that you want to reflect out from your company, and you're making sure your actions are consistent with those values. So if diversity and inclusion is a value and it is for us, then you have to be intentional when you're thinking of hiring, and promoting, and retaining. You have to think about that value and how you want that to be expressed. You have to think about it in terms of who you hire as third-party vendors, the law firms that we hire, or the other third-party vendors that we hire to do work us, they need to also reflect those values that we talk about.

Tony West (36:07):

And so, being mindful and intentional about making that one of the criteria that you use when you choose those outside vendors, that's what walking the talk, I think also means. It's interesting too because, if you do that, if you set out, and if you set out really to build the best possible team, everything in my experience tells me that team will be diverse. We already know whether it's Harvard Business School or Stanford Business School or McKinsey, all of the studies which tell us that, diverse teams make better decisions, which tell us that, firms with more women in leadership positions, in management, actually have better financial returns. There's lots of data out there which tells us that, when you actually try to build the best of the best, it will be diverse.

Josh King (37:00):

We love the fact that you've come back to the New York Stock Exchange after your May 9th IPO, we'd love to be a convener of major events and conversation about important issues. You're back here this evening for a fireside chat with Amanda Wynn, who's the founder and CEO of Rise, which is a non-governmental civil rights organization, working with multiple state legislatures and Congress to implement a Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights. I want to hear a clip from the women's March on the national mall in Washington where Amanda shared her story to thousands of those who were in attendance.

Amanda Wynn (37:33):

We today of every color, creed and belief are gathered here in a demonstration of the American story. Today, you might feel scared, and I know what it feels like to be scared. My name is Amanda Wynn, and I am a rape survivor. And I remember after my rape, I felt despair, but I also felt fire. So when I met a broken criminal justice system, like so many survivors who find out that there are untested rape kits can be destroyed, I rewrote the law.

Josh King (38:27):

Tony, Amanda wrote an advocated for the Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights, which was signed into law by president Obama in October 2016. Much of your public service career was spent prosecuting sexual predators, how did you become associated with the Rise and it's mission?

Tony West (38:42):

Well, I'm looking forward to actually a fireside chat, in which Amanda and I will talk about the importance of women's safety and particularly the importance of women's safety as an enabler to independence, to agency, to mobility. Amanda is an amazing, amazing individual, well-deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize nomination that she has. But one of the most exciting things I think she has done through Rise now is that, she has helped people to understand their own power in moving the political process. In addition to the Survivor's Bill of Rights that she was able to not only get passed through Congress, but get it passed unanimously in a bipartisan way through Congress, which is something we almost never see. She's been able to go on and pass 22 other bills and make them law.

Tony West (39:38):

And she's been able to reach out to individuals, train individuals around the country, activists who have issues that really relate to civil rights, and she's been able to help them take advantage of the legislative leavers of power to not only pin these civil rights into law, but to get them passed and to create a narrative that helps others, to even folks they may disagree with politically to be able to see the value in passing some of this legislation. So it's a really, really remarkable thing and gift that she's given to so many people around the world.

Josh King (40:17):

How can more people get involved with what Amanda is doing?

Tony West (40:19):

Well, it's a risenow.us as where you can go and you can look at... They've just started something called, the Justice Lab. And it really is aimed at training individuals, just like you would think of any startup, an entrepreneur has a great idea, and they go and they seek seed funding. What she is doing is, she's finding social activists, civil rights advocates who have great ideas in terms of, how do we augment the legislative framework around our civil rights protections. And she's finding those folks with good ideas and she's giving them seed funding to help them advocate for those ideas and to get them into legislation.

Josh King (41:03):

After the break, Tony and I take a look back at his early days in public service and the private sector, his love of politics, and what lies ahead for Uber and its future. That's right after this.

Speaker 1 (41:14):

And now a word from Teladoc. NYSE ticker T-D-O-C.

Speaker 2 (41:20):

When I get sick, I'm too busy to reschedule my day. And that's why I use Teladoc. I don't need to wait. I can talk with a US board certified doctor by phone or video within minutes, who can diagnose, treat and prescribe medication for conditions like the flu, bronchitis, allergies and more, for me, my family, even my coworkers, 24 7, anywhere, anytime. They've already connected over four million patients to get the care they need. So what are you waiting for? Visit teladoc.com.

Josh King (41:48):

Back now with Tony West chief legal officer at Uber. Before the break, Tony and I were talking about Uber's historic IPO and some of the exciting new offerings that technology company is unveiling to expand modern transportation as we know it. Tony, as I said earlier, once we connected again, I went back and looked at so many of your tweets. I look at your Twitter feed now, and there's a picture across the top of president Obama gazing out from behind bars, which I presume might be Robben Island. What does the picture represent to you?

Tony West (42:20):

First of all, I'm flattered, did you think that was president Obama? That was actually me gazing out of, yes, you were right, Nelson Mandela's cell at Robben Island. I went there when-

Josh King (42:30):

I saw gray in the head. I don't see any gray hair.

Tony West (42:33):

Oh no, there's gray.

Josh King (42:33):


Tony West (42:34):

It's just really short [inaudible 00:42:35]. Gosh, there's lots of gray. That was a trip that I took in 2014. I was speaking in South Africa in Cape town, and I had wanted to go to Robben Island. When we went there, it was great. One of the... We were able to arrange a special tour because I was the Associate Attorney General. And of course it was led by a former inmate, which is one of the incredible things about going to Robben Island. Sadly, so many of them are passing away now, because of age, but it was an incredible tour. And it just reminded you, it just was such a, such a strong reminder of how important and profound it is to stand up for ideals, even when your personal Liberty is at stake, and really understanding what Mandela went through during the time that he was incarcerated, seeing what that DB life was like.

Tony West (43:43):

It was a powerful, powerful trip for me. It's also just a reminder of the ideals that are so universal. They're ideals that are reflected in our declaration of independence, they're ideals that we constantly strive to achieve and to actually manifest in our own civic life. We're not always perfect at doing that, but we continue to try to do that. But it's a reminder that those values of freedom, of equality, of justice, those are values that are universal. They exist not just here in the United States, but they're held by so many people around the world, which is why in the United States is the beacon that it is for so many people around the world. And it's worth remembering that. And it's worth having a spirit of charity, it's worth having a spirit of humility. It's worth having a spirit that is welcoming, because we are in a very privileged position to be able to be that.

Josh King (44:48):

Mm-hmm (affirmative). You were born in San Francisco, grew up in San Jose. Your father Franklin West is born in Georgia, became the first person in his family to go to college and later worked for IBM. Your mom, Peggy born in Alabama later became a teacher. How did that upbringing affect the outlook you have today?

Tony West (45:06):

Well, both of my parents as you know are from the deep south, they grew up in the Jim Crow deep South. And one of the things they decided was that they would not raise their children in the segregated South. And so before I was born, they moved to California where they didn't know a soul and settled in San Francisco and that's where I was born. And then later my two younger sisters were born when we were in San Jose. My dad was a remarkable man, because you have very much self-made. I mean, someone who sent himself to college, the first in his family to go to college, born dirt poor to a family of sharecroppers, and believed in education as if it were a religion, really...

Tony West (46:02):

That was the thing that for my dad unlocked horizons into which he'd not been born, that he could access opportunity that simply would not have been available to him, had it not been his drive for education, and to be educated. And so raising my two younger sisters and me, that was really one of the core, core values of the household, the importance of gaining an education. And so that was reflected in everything that we did. It's interesting because when I reflect on his life journey, he passed away much too young when I was the Associate Attorney General.

Tony West (46:47):

When I reflect on his life journey, or if I reflect on my mother-in-law's life journey, who came to this country in 1959 from India as a teenager and pursued a PhD and became a breast cancer research scientist and raised her two daughters. When I think about their life journeys, I think about the fact that they represent the best of who we are as America. Their stories are only possible in this country, and the fact that they lived out those lives and were able to raise their families to be able to unlock opportunities that they'd not been born into, I think speaks a lot about the potential and the greatness of the country. And it also reminds us how important it is to preserve that.

Josh King (47:41):

Education as if it were religion, your dad's mantra, in the early 80s, Tony, you left Northern California for the Northeast where you attended Harvard. Everyone has their own story of how their first education or college experiences affected them. How did going to Cambridge affect you?

Tony West (47:59):

Well, I was a kid who been born and raised on the West Coast. So I didn't know anything about the East Coast. It was a very different environment, but a very important part of my education, a very important part of who I've become, because understanding those different cultures, and they are different cultures, understanding those different cultures, being exposed to racism in its starkest forms for the first time when I was in Cambridge and Boston, and learning how to navigate and negotiate that was extremely important to my growth as a person. I'm really thankful for the opportunity to have been able to go to not just Harvard, but to actually be able to live in Cambridge, to live in Boston, where you and I met on the Dukakis campaign and to feel very much at home on the East Coast as much at home on the East Coast as I do on the West Coast.

Josh King (49:00):

So skip over because we are limited on time, Tony, of your time back at Stanford Law and running the Law Review, I want to get to Washington DC because once you get there can often be a hard place to leave, your first position there was working for the department of justice in 1993 as a special assistant under Philip Payman, then the Deputy Attorney General, what did you take away from your time there?

Tony West (49:23):

We can't skip over the fact that the most important thing I got out of law school was my wife, my Harris, who I met in my first year. But then fast forward to the department of justice. I worked for Phil. Phil was actually, he was the number two, the Deputy Attorney General. He actually left not too long after I got there. It was only, I think within six months he left, Jamie Gorelick came in, but in that transition, I ended up just doing a lot of work directly for the Attorney General Janet Reno. And that was the most important thing that I got from that experience. And in fact, my experience working for Ms. Reno really shaped who I became as a lawyer. She was a remarkable, remarkable woman, and really was one of my first mentors in the law.

Tony West (50:14):

She had been a prosecutor in Florida, a state's attorney, and loved that work, love that public service. And I always think that she probably took pity on me, but she took an interest in me and would often tell me that she thought I would be a good prosecutor, a good trial attorney one day. And so, after having been at main justice for a year or so, I did get this opportunity to become a federal prosecutor back in my home State, California, and my home city, in San Jose. And she couldn't have been happier. And the thing that I will always carry with me was a great gift she gave me right before I left to go back to California. She asked to see me one-on-one in her office and she wanted to talk to me about what it meant to be a federal prosecutor.

Tony West (51:07):

And during that meeting, she took me to this little room that's actually outside of the Attorney General's private office, in the main Justice Building, and it's this wood that's got wood paneled walls. And in it are carved the words from a Supreme Court case that essentially says, the United States wins its point when justice is done. And what Ms. Reno told me was, I want you to remember that your job as a federal prosecutor, Tony, is not to go out and win as many cases as you possibly can, your job is to do justice in every single matter that you handle. And that was a powerful charge. I think I was 28, 29 years old. And not only was it a powerfully inspiring charge coming from anybody, the fact that it was coming from the Attorney General of the United States made it all the more so.

Tony West (52:06):

And so it not just shaped my view of how do I approach my work as a public prosecutor, it shaped my view of what it meant to be a lawyer, that as a lawyer, whether I was in the private sector or the public sector, my job really was to try to figure out how to do the right thing. How to do the right thing, period. Even when it was hard. And so whenever I got into those situations where you might be called on to represent an unpopular client, who's been asking for a lawyer and has now been getting that lawyer, or if you have to decline the representation of a wealthy corporate client, because you don't believe in that representation.

Tony West (52:52):

Or in those moments, and I've a number of those moments in my career, I would always think about what Ms. Reno told me, and it would always give me the strength to be able to make the hard choice. When you fast forward all the way to today, in that meeting I had with Dara in that Steakhouse, imagine how I felt when he said, one of the north stars that we have here is to do the right thing, period. I said, I think I can do that.

Josh King (53:22):

I think he knew that too. I mean, much to president Clinton's chagrin, Ms. Reno ran an apolitical justice department, and it's certainly a very different beast now than it was back then. And you mentioned one of the great benefits you got out of attending Stanford Law School, which is your spouse, Maya Harris. She's got a very impressive sister who is the Attorney General of California. Now the junior Senator from California and presidential candidate, Kamala Harris. And running this vast legal operation for Uber, and yet maybe taking a July 4th break on the hustings in Iowa and hanging out with the farmers and everything else in those 99 counties that I've had such great times in myself. How do you keep the balance between, the focus on the corporate work and the family effort that's currently going on?

Tony West (54:13):

Well, I mean, if I wanted to see my wife or my family for July 4th, I had to go to Iowa. That was why I ended up going. Look, Maya is the campaign chair and I think is doing a phenomenal job. And Kamala can have no better person who is helping to lead this effort. Kamala I think, is an incredible public servant and incredible person, but an incredible public servant. Look, as a family member, she makes me proud. And as a citizen, she gives me hope. I couldn't be prouder of both of them, but thankfully the hard, hard work and heavy lifting is really done by the Senator and by her sister, the campaign chair.

Josh King (55:04):

So as we wrap up, Tony West, you recently sat down with the New York Times columnist David Gelles about how action not just talk is crucial to demonstrating Uber's commitment to safety and transparency. What else should we be on the lookout from Uber in terms of the evolution of its corporate culture?

Tony West (55:21):

Well, I think the evolution of corporate culture is never finished. I think we've made a very good start. At the top of the podcast, I talked about how we had albeit the company case with Waymo, we settled that case. Those adversaries are now investors. I talked about how we had a board at war with itself, those matters have been settled. We now have an independent chair and we are a model of governance, not just for tech companies, but for any company. I talked about the fact that we had lost our license to operate in London. We now have a provisional license back, and we hope that we are on track to get a more permanent license later this year.

Tony West (55:59):

I think, all of that is evidence that the culture is changing at Uber, but it's not done. We have a long way to go. We still have to grapple with these issues that are untrackable for a lot of companies, but particularly for us, because of the spotlight, I think people really are noticing and taking notice. And we welcome that attention by the way, because it's important for accountability. When it comes to DNI, we have more work to do. When it comes to improving the safety of our platform, particularly for women, I know that we can continue to make strides there. I'm proud of how far we've been able to come, but I'm also very clear-eyed about the fact that we have more work to do.

Josh King (56:42):

And I can't wait to get a chicken parm delivered to my high-rise apartment window through VTOL.

Tony West (56:47):

Absolutely, it is coming. It is coming

Josh King (56:50):

On that note, Tony, I look forward to watching Uber revolutionized the ride sharing industry and so many other aspects of what the company is doing, and making strides and improving diversity and ethics in the workplace. Thanks so much for joining us. Inside the ICE House, thanks for coming back to the New York Stock Exchange. Come back anytime and use this as your platform.

Tony West (57:07):

Thank you so much, Josh. It's great to see you.

Josh King (57:09):

That's our conversation for this week. Our guest was Tony West, general counsel of Uber. If you liked what you heard, please rate us on iTunes so other folks know where to find us. And if you've got a comment or question you'd like one of our experts to tackle on a future show, email us at [email protected] or tweet at us @ICEHousePodcast. Our show is produced by Pete Asch and Theresa DeLuca with production assistance from Ken Abel and Ian Wolf. I'm Josh king, your host signing off in the library of the New York Stock Exchange. Thanks for listening. Talk to you next week.

Speaker 1 (57:43):

The information contained in this podcast was obtained in part from publicly available sources and not independently verified, neither ICE, nor its affiliates make any representations or warranties, express or implied as to the accuracy or completeness of the information and do not sponsor approve or endorse any of the content [inaudible 00:58:01]. All of which is presented solely for informational and educational purposes, nothing here in constitutes an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy any security or a recommendation of any security or trading practice. Some portions of the proceeding conversation may have been edited for the purpose of [inaudible 00:58:16] clarity.

Listen to more episodes

Subscribe to Inside the ICE House

  • Listen on Apple Podcasts
  • Spotify
  • Listen on Stitcher
  • Listen on Google Podcasts
  • Listen on Himalaya
  • RSS

Information contained in this podcast was obtained in part from publicly available sources, and not independently verified. Neither ICE nor its affiliates make any representations or warranties, express or implied, as to the accuracy or completeness of the information and do not sponsor, approve, or endorse any of the content herein, all of which is presented solely for informational and educational purposes. Nothing herein constitutes an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy any security, or a recommendation of any security or trading practice.