SAN FRANCISCO — Uber said on Tuesday it was cooperating with a preliminary investigation led by the U.S. Department of Justice into possible violations of bribery laws.
The preliminary investigation is the latest in a series of legal wrangles at Uber as the ride-services company waits for its new chief executive to take the reins.
News of the bribery investigation comes as Uber has chosen Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of Expedia, as it next leader. Khosrowshahi's appointment comes at a time when Uber is trying to recover from a series of crises that culminated in the ouster of its former CEO Travis Kalanick in June. It is also a key step toward filling a gaping hole in its top management which at the moment has no chief financial officer, head of engineering or general counsel.
"The board and the executive leadership team are confident that Dara is the best person to lead Uber into the future," Uber's eight-member board wrote in an email to employees that was also made public.
Khosrowshahi emailed Expedia staff that he had accepted the job, albeit "with truly mixed feelings."
"This has been one of the toughest decisions of my life," he said in his email.
Over his tenure, Khosrowshahi built Expedia into the largest online travel agency by bookings and its stock price grew more than six-fold since he became CEO in 2005.
"I have to tell you that I'm scared," he wrote. "I've been here at Expedia for so long that I've forgotten what life is outside of this place."
A spokesman for the company confirmed the existence of a "preliminary investigation" following a report by the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that the Justice Department had started probing whether managers at Uber violated U.S. laws against bribery of foreign officials, specifically the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
It is unclear whether authorities are focused on one country or multiple countries where the company operates.
Reuters in June reported that Uber had hired a law firm to investigate how it obtained the medical records of an Indian woman who was raped by an Uber driver in 2014. The review was to focus in part on accusations from some current and former employees that bribes were involved, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The Uber board on Sunday voted to select Khosrowshahi as the company's next leader to replace co-founder Travis Kalanick, who was ousted in June under shareholder pressure, sources told Reuters.
Khosrowshahi, 48, on Tuesday made his first public comments since the board's decision to make him CEO.
"Are there difficulties? Are there complexities? Are there challenges?" Khosrowshahi told Bloomberg. "Absolutely, but that's also what makes it fun."
Reporting by Heather Somerville