Argentine Lawyer Sues Uber Over Fallout From Buenos Aires Launch

Uber driver holding smartphone in car. Uber is an American company offering transportation services online. Photo: Shutterstock.com.

(Photo: Shutterstock.com)

Uber Technology Inc. has a habit of charging into new markets without heeding local regulations, according to an Argentinian lawyer suing the company after he was left facing up to nine years in prison.

After the San Francisco-based ride-sharing company’s Buenos Aires launch in April 2016, Uber’s Argentina representative, Michael R. Rattagan, was subjected to police investigations and tax evasion charges for Uber’s violation of local regulations, according to his lawsuit filed last Friday. Rattagan is seeking millions of dollars for the alleged harm Uber caused him and his law practice.

He is asking for compensatory and punitive damages for breach of fiduciary duty, deceit, fraud, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Rattagan, who helped Uber set up its corporate presence in Argentina in 2013, said in the lawsuit that he had no knowledge of the company’s plans to enter the capital city. In fact, he only heard of the news through an announcement that landed in his spam folder, according to the complaint.

For its emergence into Buenos Aires, Uber tapped a different law firm, and the tech company had not requested any major services from Rattagan's team for about two years before entering the city, the lawsuit said. The former Rogers & Wells attorney resigned and asked Uber to update public records naming the other law firm as Uber’s legal representative. He also asked Uber to update its information identifying the interim managers for its subsidiary, and its legal domicile in the city, all of which referenced Rattagan's law firm.

Uber did not process the update for two months, opening Rattagan’s team to investigations for federal and provincial tax evasion and money laundering.

Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

During Uber's expansion into 65 countries since 2009, the company's rapid growth strategy often capitalized on local regulators' and unions' inability to catch up, according to the lawsuit. The ramifications of the company's "ask for forgiveness" approach has been devastating for Rattagan, according to his attorney Stephen J. Rosenfeld of McDonald Hopkins in Chicago.

"Forgiveness means nothing to my client," Rosenfeld said. "Uber’s corporate strategy doesn’t apply when you are dealing with an individual’s life. Uber is a multibillion-dollar behemoth that can afford to be cavalier. It has shown that it can survive the all-too-familiar backlash from governmental regulators, industry competitors, and the public. But, here, it decided to foist the repercussions of its conduct onto an individual who neither agreed to face such exposure nor is poised like Uber to survive it.  He was charged and prosecuted for crimes as a result of Uber’s actions, not his own. His reputation has been assaulted because of Uber’s conduct, not his own."