Recode reports that Uber Vice President of product and growth Ed Baker is resigning. The resignation comes following the announcement of a major internal investigation into the company’s culture, and reports suggest Baker could have become entangled in it.
Recode cites anonymous reports that Baker was seen “making out” with another Uber employee at a company event. Though sources did not indicate any sexual harassment or lack of consent in the incident, many companies place restrictions on office relationships, particularly involving senior executives.
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In an email to his team, Baker cited a desire to enter the public sector as the reason for his resignation. Recode says current Uber marketplace head Daniel Graf will become acting head of product and growth.
Benign or not, Baker’s alleged behavior plays into a larger sense that Uber’s company culture is out of control. The floodgates were opened in February by former engineer Susan Fowler’s detailing of Uber’s inept/malicious human resources responses to flagrant sexual harassment. Similar charges were levied by a second former employee yesterday. Less than a week ago, senior engineering vice president Amit Singhal was forced to resign after it was discovered he had faced harassment allegations at Google.
A sexual culture with the maturity of a 4chan message board is, of course, only one part of Uber’s rapidly escalating and largely self-inflicted crisis. The litany of challenges, unseemly revelations, and unforced errors over the past month has also included a patent infringement lawsuit that could cripple Uber’s self-driving car efforts; a Volkswagen-style program to evade government investigators; and brazen public deception about the performance of its self-driving car prototypes.
Any relationship between all of this and Baker’s departure is speculative at this point. He may be genuinely vulnerable to scrutiny in an investigation of sexual harassment claims being headed by former Attorney General Eric Holder. Or he may just think it’s a good time to get off a ship that’s springing leaks left and right.