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Lyft has yet to disclose sexual assault and abuse incidents as cases mount

In May 2018, after a CNN investigation into incidents of assault and sexual abuse committed by motorists, Uber (UBER) and Lyft (LYFT), each committed to publishing security transparency reports that would disclose internal data on the most serious security incidents on their platforms. In late 2019, Uber released its first report, which found it had received 5,981 reports of sexual assault involving passengers and drivers in the previous two years, including 464 reports of rape.

Lyft, for its part, missed its own earlier deadlines for the report’s release.

When CNN Business asked Lyft in September 2019 about the status of the report, Lyft said it plans to release its transparency report by the end of the year. In May 2020, Lyft told CNN Business that the company planned to release the report that year.

In March 2021, Lyft’s policymaker Jennifer Brandenburger cited a hurdle: Lyft, she said, is waiting for Uber to resolve its ongoing issue with the California Public Utilities Commission before releasing its own report. (The CPUC requested additional information on the incidents in the state, then fined Uber $ 59 million for not responding to its request; CPUC and Uber are in mediation to resolve the issue. problem.)

In a statement, Lyft spokeswoman Ashley Adams told CNN Business: “The CPUC’s recent actions put the privacy of victims at risk and must be resolved before we can release our safety report.” .

When asked about the schedule changes, Lyft told CNN Business it has decided to include 2019 data in its report and is awaiting the release of government data on fatal traffic accidents. At the time, the CPUC challenged Uber’s report.

While Lyft waits, legal cases against the company continue to grow over its handling of sexual assault and alleged rape incidents. At least 72 passengers are suing the company over alleged incidents. Of these cases, a small number should be tried in a coordinated procedure. Some of the cases allege that Lyft had known that its drivers had sexually assaulted and raped female passengers for years, but failed to take adequate steps to protect passengers and alert them to the problem.

The first trial is expected to start in January 2022.

(Lyft referred CNN Business to its December 2019 statement, after filing complaints, “Everyone deserves the opportunity to be around the world safely, but women still face disproportionate risks. We recognize these risks. risks, which is why we are relentless in building safety. in all aspects of our work. It means continually investing in new features and policies to protect our passengers and drivers. “)

According to Levin Simes Abrams LLP, one of three companies that have filed lawsuits against Lyft, the number of passengers seeking attorney for allegations of sexual assault and abuse by Lyft drivers is much higher. The firm said it has retained more than 400 clients whose cases it is investigating and pursuing, with around 80 cases currently filed. Estey & Bomberger LLP, another company with separate cases against Lyft and also part of the coordinated proceeding, said it had “many” other alleged victims it had yet to file a case for.

“These [cases] will keep coming unless [Lyft] change its procedures or institute more security measures, ”Angela Nehmens, associate lawyer at Levin Simes Abrams LLP, told CNN Business. “Uber is at least trying to be open to the public. … Lyft doesn’t do that at all. ”

“They’re not cooperative,” said Laurel Simes, partner at Levin Simes Abrams LLP, who added that while Uber periodically meets with the firm to try to resolve cases, Lyft doesn’t.

In a statement after this story was published, Lyft rebuffed this characterization. “As the court recently noted, Lyft is engaged in ongoing discussions with Levin Simes,” Adams said, referring to a recent hearing regarding the coordinated proceeding. “We remain open to discuss any of their clients’ cases.”

Lyft has yet to disclose sexual assault and abuse incidents as cases mount

For Lyft, there are a lot of issues at stake in releasing the report, including the potential to damage its brand just as the US economy begins to reopen.

Lyft also faces an ongoing class action lawsuit against investors alleging securities fraud. The lawsuit, which was first filed in 2019 after the company went public, specifically alleges a mismatch between Lyft’s public image and its handling of incidents of sexual assault.

“Lyft has built a reputation as a company that cares about women, safety and social issues. Lyft’s focus on the strength of its reputation has been a key selling point for IPO investors.” , according to the complaint. “Contrary to the public image… Lyft had a pervasive problem with sexual assaults by its drivers.”

The complaint further notes that Lyft did not disclose this in its IPO registration statement, which made no mention of the issue.

Lyft declined to comment on the investor lawsuit.

According to Susan Sorenson, a professor of social policy at the University of Pennsylvania whose areas of research include the issue of violence against women, it is “reasonable to be concerned” that Lyft has yet to disclose these data, which would help define the nature and scope of the topic on its consumer platform.

Sorenson said businesses “can and do take action when they believe it is in their best interest.”

Information about security incidents can help people make informed decisions about how and when to travel, but transparency also risks damaging a company’s reputation, according to Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, professor emeritus of urban planning and design. design at UCLA.

“[The companies] should be very worried if people start to say that there are more and more people complaining about harassment because this whole idea of ​​traveling safely via Lyft or Uber is falling apart, ”Loukaitou-Sideris said . “I think that’s why they protect their data a lot on this point.

Loukaitou-Sideris, who has studied sexual harassment on public transport, said failure to report could also discourage reporting incidents to the company.

One of the reasons people don’t report suspected incidents of sexual violence, Loukaitou-Sideris said, is because they perceive that not much will happen as a result of their reporting. “By not releasing this data is one more reason for this approach,” she said, citing a possible unintended consequence of Lyft not yet releasing a report.

Uber, meanwhile, is expected to release its second transparency report later this year. While Uber “has taken a really important first step” in releasing its data, according to Sorenson, it said there is still a long way to go.

Sorenson said it would be helpful to post raw data anonymously so it can be studied. Additionally, she and attorneys for Levin Simes Abrams LLC said ridesharing companies could require drivers to record trips, for example, so that there is more accountability inside vehicles for them. drivers and passengers. (Uber recently began urging drivers to register their dashcams with the company, citing that this can help drivers follow local laws on monitoring and recording. The company said it was warning drivers of drivers that their trip would be recorded if a driver recorded the dashcam, which safety incidents would occur.)

Correction: An earlier version of this story wrongly attributed a quote to another partner of Levin Simes Abrams LLC who was on a group appeal with CNN Business over this story.


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