Falling dominoes with tech logos on them.
Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

The red-handed whistleblower

Source Code

Good morning! The Uber Files whistleblower was revealed — turns out, he did a few shady things at the company, too. So what happens to him?

Whistleblowing from the front line

To blow the whistle, you need to have been close to the action. In the case of the Uber Files, the person sharing details about Uber’s practices was actually involved in the action.

Mark MacGann revealed himself as the Uber Files whistleblower yesterday in a video published by The Guardian. MacGann was Uber’s head of public policy in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and he’s now the founder of Moonshot Ventures. He’s also directly tied to the files being published.

  • “I am partly responsible,” MacGann told the Guardian.
  • MacGann texted Emmanuel Macron in 2015 for help when a French police official banned one of the company’s services. “I will look at this personally,” Macron texted him.
  • It’s unusual, but not surprising, for MacGann to implicate himself. It had to be someone close to the company that had access to those emails and texts, but past whistleblowers have tended to be people who observed dicey business practices, not the ones involved with them.

So will MacGann face consequences? It’s too early to say how these reports on Uber will affect the company and those people named in the files..

  • One thing we do know: The Uber Files implicated some huge names, with Joe Biden, Emmanuel Macron and George Osborne among them, and their involvement has already started raising eyebrows.
  • Nat and I put together a guide of everyone who has been named so far.

Authorities certainly want more tech whistleblowers, and it will be interesting to see if MacGann’s experience prompts other frontline tech workers to come forward.

  • In December, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau called on tech workers to speak out when they see wrongdoing and outlined protections for those who do.
  • EU leaders said they’ll lean on whistleblowers to help enforce major new tech rules. “There will be more and more people in the world and also gatekeepers who will say, ‘Hey listen, why don’t we make these markets better and fairer?’” one lawmaker said.

MacGann could of course get dragged through the mud with these reports. But he’s also undoubtedly closer to the action than some whistleblowers, which comes with potentially having more to share about how things went down. If he comes out unscathed, he may prompt other people who were involved in some of tech’s darker dealings to come forward too.

—Sarah Roach

The pay-later reckoning

Klarna’s valuation took a beating Monday, dropping more than 85% from $46 billion to $6.7 billion in its latest funding round.

Klarna’s fallen valuation came as the economy is showing clear signs of an impending slowdown.

  • BNPL companies claimed they should, in theory, be less affected by economic downturns, with Affirm CEO Max Levchin telling Protocol reporter Ben Pimentel that offering people “cash-flow flexibility” when their spending power is reduced should put its services in higher demand.
  • But as Dean Kim, head of equity research at William O’Neil and Co., told me last month, “If the economy slows down to a point where consumers feel the pinch … all of these players are going to be impacted.”

BNPL companies may actually be hurting each other. Protocol reporter Tomio Geron told me that pay-later lenders don’t always know if consumers are also using other BNPL services at the same time, which means consumers can be loading up with more debt.

Klarna followed the leader: Its CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski tweeted this morning that its valuation is “down on par” with peers. And he’s right.

  • Affirm’s share price is down 88% from its 52-week high of $176.65, closing out Monday at $21.37. Afterpay parent company Block is down nearly 80% from its 52-week peak.

Investors worry that a looming recession could have two effects: Either consumers won’t be able to pay off the BNPL loans they’ve taken out, or they’ll stop spending, period, Tomio told me. And until those fears dissipate, rough times likely lie ahead for pay-later lenders.

—Nat Rubio-Licht


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People are talking

Twitter said Elon Musk's claim that the deal is off is "invalid and wrongful":

  • “Twitter has breached none of its obligations under the agreement, and Twitter has not suffered and is not likely to suffer a company material adverse effect."

Kristin Cohen said the FTC is keeping an eye on platforms that claim to keep health and location data anonymous:

  • "Companies that make false claims about anonymization can expect to hear from the FTC."

Meta's Maher Saba told managers to "move and exit" poor performers:

  • “If a direct report is coasting or is a low performer, they are not who we need; they are failing this company."

Making moves

ZipRecruiter, RingCentral and SeekOut joined TechNet. Sixteen members have joined the group since the start of the year.

Michelle Kley left Virgin Galactic as legal chief. It’s unclear why she left and where she’s going next.

Tom Krause is leaving Broadcom. Krause leads the company’s software group.

Rohini Pandhi joined Block’s bitcoin wallet team. Pandhi last worked on product at the company.

In other news

Donald Trump's tweet will be the center of today's Jan. 6 hearing. The tweet in question is from December 2020: "Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!"

Google countersued Match Group, alleging the company broke Google Play rules. The company wants a ruling that would help it kick Match off its app store.

The first image from the James Webb telescope was released, and it's stunning.

Chip companies are building fabs with or without the U.S. GlobalFoundries and STMicro are setting up shop in France with the help of government subsidies.

Italy’s data protection authority warned that TikTok may be breaking EU rulesabout user privacy for telling users it would deliver targeted ads without asking for consent to use their devices’ data.

Twitter's introducing unmentions. All users will now be able to remove themselves from the conversation.

Tencent, Alibaba and DiDi got fined by China’s antitrust watchdog for failing to report mergers for review.

Colombia banned iPhone and iPad Pro sales after a legal battle between Ericsson and Apple. That’s a small market, but bans in other countries could have big implications.

Stop Slack-splaining

It’s easy to misunderstand a Slack message. In fact, over 90% of office workers have had their messages misunderstood or misinterpreted at work, causing some people to get demoted, reprimanded or fired, according to a survey by Loom. There are a few ways you could avoid communication troubles — add an exclamation mark, chalk up your message with emojis — but when in doubt, just ask your colleague to hop on the phone.


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