The US Justice Department is investigating whether Uber violated foreign-bribery laws

Uber travis kalanickChris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesUber cofounder and former CEO Travis Kalanick

The US Department of Justice is looking into whether Uber violated laws involving the bribery of foreign officials, the company confirmed to Business Insider on Tuesday.

The DOJ is examining allegations that Uber, the privately-held ride-hailing giant, may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The law makes it illegal for individuals and organisations to pay foreign government officials in order to obtain or retain business.

It’s not clear exactly what incidents or countries the DOJ is looking at, or when the alleged violations may have occurred.

The investigation marks yet another troublesome complication for Uber, the world’s most valuable privately-held tech startup, following months of controversies and internal turmoil. On Sunday, Uber’s board of directors, divided over cofounder Travis Kalanick’s continued role in the company, voted to name Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi as Kalanick’s replacement as CEO. Kalanick resigned that position in June, but remains a director of the company.

Uber is cooperating with the investigation, which is in its preliminary stages, a company representative told Business Insider.

A DOJ representative declined to comment on the inquiry, noting in an email to Business Insider that the agency “generally neither confirms nor denies the existence of an investigation.”

Based on what the DOJ’s examination finds, officials will decide whether to open a full-fledged investigation, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the inquiry.

Uber operates its eight-year-old ride hailing service across the world, with operations in 632 cities. The company has often encountered resistance and friction from local regulators as it has expanded its footprint and upended incumbent taxi and limousine businesses.

Under Kalanick, Uber also earned a reputation for taking an aggressive posture in its relations with regulators, epitomized by the revelation that it created a secret tool known as “Greyball” to allow its drivers to avoid authorities in cities where the service was banned or under scrutiny.

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