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Problems Pile Up for Uber in a Traffic Accident of a Week

Uber is having a sub-optimal week, to say the least.
Image: The logo of the ride sharing service Uber is seen in front of its headquarters
The logo of the ride sharing service Uber is seen in front of its headquarters on Aug. 26, 2016 in San Francisco.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images, file

Uber is having a traffic accident of a week, and the crashes keep piling up.

Earlier this week, the $68 billion ride-sharing giant faced a wave of criticism and account deletions following revelations of sexual harassment and a take-no-prisoners "bro" culture at the San Francisco-based company.

Uber is already reeling from losing over 200,000 customers deleted the Uber app in protest when the company temporarily turned off surge-pricing during a protest at JFK over Trump's travel ban and before CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from the president's advisory council.

In another salvo, Google's self-driving car unit sued Uber this week, alleging one of its ex-engineers downloaded 14,000 files from the company before leaving to start his own self-driving car company, later acquired by Uber.

And now, the company's efforts at crisis management are being publicly questioned by some of its very first believers. Two early angel investors, Mitch and Freada Kapor, stepped out Thursday to publicly denounce the company's "toxic patterns" and "destructive culture," in an open letter posted on Medium.

They also spotlighted the conflicts of interest in the choice of people the company has tagged to investigate itself: Former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder is to lead the internal inquiry at Uber. But he has worked for the company since June, the Kapors noted, hired to defend the company on calls to have its drivers fingerprinted. Board member Ariana Huffington has also been tasked to investigate, and the Chief Human Resources officer reports to the executive team that allowed the alleged hostile workplace to fester.

Some customers who referenced the sexual harassment claims when deleting their Uber account this week received a tailored message that said: "Everyone at Uber is deeply hurting after reading Susan Fowler's blog post."

"It's been a pretty horrible week," Joe Phillippi, head of Auto Trends Consulting, told NBC News. "It's akin to what happened to Volkswagen with the emissions scandal; a stain on the reputation of Uber. These sorts of things take on a life of their own, especially since using Uber is a very personal decision by a customer. Bad word of mouth can have a serious cost. And the hole could get deeper before it hits bottom."

Related: Google's Lawsuit Against Uber Stems From Huge Email Fail

Uber's rivals have wasted no time jostling into position: Lyft announced this week that it is launching in 54 new cities, and Google-owned Waze announced plans to expand its carpool service.

Uber didn't immediately return a request for comment.