But again, in this case Uber's connection with sexual harassment problems is more damaging that it is for many other companies. We might be horrified by the accounts of abuse at the hands of big shots in Hollywood, the news media, or on Capitol Hill, but most of us don't fear we'll even be in those same offices or personally harassed by celebrities. It's different with Uber, where an entire company policy that is too lax on sexual harassment could easily be seen as trickling down to individual employees and the drivers to which millions of us hand our personal safety.
Another issue Uber has had to deal with are allegations that the company fights dirty. Those allegations gained significant traction last year, when it was found to have hired an ex-CIA employee to dig up dirt on an opposing attorney in a lawsuit.
Put all of this together and you have a perfect storm with wind gusts that all push Uber into the same general public relations disaster area. How many times have we heard the old adage: "It's not the crime, but the coverup?" In Uber's case, the lack of public transparency seems to be habitual and a particularly troubling problem for a company that remains one of Wall Streets most anticipated IPOs of all time.
Make no mistake, Uber still has a big target painted on its back by corrupt politicians and crony capitalists all over the world. But that only means the company needs to be more careful about its public image. Coverups and dirt-digging operations are a foolish way to get the public on Uber's side for the many political and financial battles it has to come.
At stake here is more than just the fate of a valuable company. Corporate America's entire culture is being challenged by these hacking and sex harassment scandals and Uber is at the center of both. What Uber does to respond to it could set the tone for what we can expect in the future from all of our institutions.
Let's hope it makes the right turn.
Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.
For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.
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