Uber whistleblower Mark MacGann to House of Representatives for hearing

The House of Representatives will speak with Uber whistleblower Mark MacGann on March 8 about the treatment of Uber by the Dutch tax authorities. An invitation from the House of Representatives Finance Committee was accepted by MacGann this week.

MacGann – Uber’s top lobbyist from 2014 to 2016 – shared 124,000 Uber internal documents with the international journalist collective ICIJ last summer. This ‘Uber Files’ showed, among other things, that employees of the taxi app were very pleased with the “protective” and “cooperative” tax authorities in the Netherlands, where the American tech company has its international headquarters.

For example, the Tax Authorities allegedly passed on confidential information to Uber about an international tax audit. Uber also appeared to maintain very close contacts with prominent Dutch politicians, including former European Commissioner Neelie Kroes, who was later rewarded by Uber for services rendered with an advisor position with a salary of USD 200,000 per year.

Also read the interview that Mark MacGann gave to NRC last month: ‘The Netherlands, was this really worth it?’

In response to the Uber Files, State Secretary Marnix van Rij (Finance, CDA) decided to investigate the Tax and Customs Administration. In December, after an internal investigation – which was validated by external experts – the tax authorities came to the conclusion that the service was not to blame. No evidence was found for a possible favoring of Uber.

Bottom stone

Member of Parliament Pieter Omtzigt, member of the Finance Committee, recently expressed the opposite NRC strong criticism of the research. “The Tax and Customs Administration has again had itself investigated with self-asked questions and under its own conditions,” said Omtzigt. “Then the lowest stone will not come up.”

MacGann – who was not approached by the researchers, although he was Uber’s main contact for authorities across Europe – also reacted critically. “No one has asked me for my data,” MacGann said in an interview with NRC last month. “How can the Tax and Customs Administration conclude that everything went well?”

At the initiative of Omtzigt, MacGann has now been invited to a hearing in the House of Representatives, which will be open to the public. MacGann says he accepted the invitation because he “thinks it’s high time that the role of the Netherlands in Uber’s unorthodox and unethical business growth is investigated by Dutch parliamentarians,” he said. “The Netherlands made every effort to lure Uber with immoral tax constructions. Meanwhile, it turned a blind eye to the criminal activities of the company that were directed from Amsterdam.”

Neely Kroes

During the hearing, it may also become clearer about the role that VVD prominent Neelie Kroes played in the contacts between Uber and the top of Dutch politics. After her job as European Commissioner in 2015, Kroes headed StartupDelta, a Dutch government organization that stands up for young technology companies.

In practice, she used that function to help Uber establish contacts with ministers. When justice raided Uber in 2015 for running an illegal taxi service, Kroes was used by Mark MacGann to address her contacts to stop the investigations.

The Uber Files and documents from various ministries that were released this month after parliamentary questions showed that Kroes regularly gave Uber a helping hand. “Had a fascinating meeting with the founder of Uber [Travis Kalanick]. Could be my grandson. He reminds me of Steve Jobs when I visited him. You must meet him. Dutch [Nederland] has opportunities”, Kroes texted Prime Minister Mark Rutte, among others.

Kroes is currently being investigated by the European anti-fraud office OLAF because of her behavior. The question is whether Kroes violated the rules for European Commissioners, who were not allowed to work in the business world for eighteen months after their position. With this ‘cooling off period’, Europe is trying to prevent companies from hiring ex-politicians to benefit from their knowledge and network immediately after their retirement.

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