Lyft, for its part, has not followed through on its own prior timelines for putting out the report.
When CNN Business asked Lyft in September 2019 about the status of the report, Lyft said it planned to release its transparency report by the end of the year. In May 2020, Lyft told CNN Business the company planned to release the report that year.
In a statement, Lyft spokesperson Ashley Adams told CNN Business, “The CPUC’s recent actions put victims’ privacy at risk and must be resolved before we will release our safety report.”
When asked about the changed timelines, Lyft told CNN Business it had decided to include data from 2019 in its report and was waiting on government traffic fatality data to be released. By the time it was, the CPUC had taken issue with Uber’s report.
The first trial is set to begin in January 2022.
(Lyft referred CNN Business to its statement from December 2019, after suits were filed: “Everyone deserves the ability to move about the world safely, yet women still face disproportionate risks. We recognize these risks, which is why we are relentless in building safety into every aspect of our work. That means continually investing in new features and policies to protect our riders and drivers.”)
According to Levin Simes Abrams LLP, one of three firms bringing the cases against Lyft, the number of passengers seeking legal counsel over alleged sexual assault and abuse claims by Lyft drivers is much higher. The firm said it has retained more than 400 clients whose cases it is investigating and prosecuting, with roughly 80 cases filed currently. Estey & Bomberger LLP, another firm bringing separate cases against Lyft and is also part of the coordinated proceeding, said it has “many” other alleged victims whose cases it has yet to file.
“These [cases] are going to keep coming unless [Lyft] changes its procedures or institutes more safety measures,” Angela Nehmens, associate attorney at Levin Simes Abrams LLP, told CNN Business last month. “Uber is at least making an attempt to be open with the public. … Lyft is not doing that at all.”
“They’re not cooperative,” said Laurel Simes, a partner at Levin Simes Abrams LLP, who added that while Uber meets periodically with the firm to try and resolve cases, Lyft does not.
In a statement after this story published, Lyft pushed back at this characterization. “As the court recently noted, Lyft has been engaged in ongoing discussions with Levin Simes,” Adams said, referring to a recent hearing concerning the coordinated proceeding. “We remain open to discussing any of their clients’ cases.”
For Lyft there is much at stake in releasing the report, including the potential to dent its brand just as the US economy is beginning to reopen.
“Lyft built a reputation as a company that cares about women, safety, and social issues. Lyft’s focus on the strength of its reputation was a key selling point to IPO investors,” according to the complaint. “Contrary to the public image … Lyft had a pervasive problem with sexual assaults committed by its drivers.”
Lyft declined to comment on the investor lawsuit.
According to Susan Sorenson, a professor of social policy at the University of Pennsylvania whose research areas include the issue of violence against women, it is “reasonable cause for concern” that Lyft has yet to disclose this data, which would help define the nature and scope of the issue on its platform for the general public.
Sorenson said companies “can and do take action when they feel it’s in their best interest.”
Information around safety incidents can help people make informed decisions about how and when to travel, but the transparency also runs the risk of damaging a company’s reputation, according to Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, Distinguished Professor of urban planning and design at UCLA.
“[The companies] should be very concerned if people start saying that there’s an increasing number of people that complain about harassment because this whole idea of safe travel through Lyft or Uber falls apart,” said Loukaitou-Sideris. “I think that’s why they’re very much protecting their data on this point.”
Loukaitou-Sideris, who has studied sexual harassment in public transit, said not producing a report may also discourage reporting of incidents to the company.
One reason people do not report alleged incidents of sexual violence, according to Loukaitou-Sideris, is because they perceive that nothing much will happen as a result of their reporting. “By not publishing this data, it is one more reason that justifies that approach,” she said, citing a possible unintended consequence of Lyft having yet to put out a report.
Uber, meanwhile, is slated to publish its second transparency report later this year. While Uber “took a really important first step” in releasing its data, according to Sorenson, she said there is still much more to be done.
Sorenson said it would be helpful to release raw data in an anonymized way so that it can be studied. Additionally, she and attorneys at Levin Simes Abrams LLC said ride-hail companies could require drivers to record rides, for example, so there’s more accountability inside vehicles for both drivers and passengers. (Uber recently started prompting drivers to register their dashcams with the company, citing that it can help drivers follow local surveillance and recording laws. The company said it alerts riders that their trip will be recorded if a driver has registered the dashcam, which may deter safety incidents from occurring.)
Correction: An earlier version of this story misattributed a quote to a different partner at Levin Simes Abrams LLC who was on a group call with CNN Business for this story.