Cover-Up Is Alleged In Google Executive Packages -- WSJ

03/12/19 02:47 AM EDT
By Rob Copeland 

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (March 12, 2019).

Google agreed to pay $135 million in exit packages to two top executives who left the company after being accused of sexual harassment and covered up the reasons for their departures, according to a complaint filed in a lawsuit unsealed Monday.

The former executives, Andy Rubin and Amit Singhal, oversaw some of the company's most important and profitable arms.

Mr. Rubin, who left in 2014, created the company's crucial Android software, while Mr. Singhal, who departed in 2016, headed search.

Mr. Rubin was accused by a subordinate of pressuring her into oral sex, among other claims, according to the lawsuit. Mr. Singhal was accused by a female employee of groping her at a "boozy off-site event," according to the suit. The board of Google's parent, now called Alphabet Inc., approved the payments with little dissent, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint, which cites information from Google, says the company agreed to pay Mr. Singhal about $45 million, the first time that number has been made public. It only ended up paying $15 million because Mr. Singhal later joined a competitor.

Ellen Stross, attorney for Mr. Rubin, said, "Andy strongly denies any misconduct." Mr. Singhal didn't respond to a request for comment. The New York Times last year reported the amount of some payouts, including $90 million to Mr. Rubin.

A Google spokeswoman said in a statement: "There are serious consequences for anyone who behaves inappropriately at Google. In recent years, we've made many changes to our workplace and taken an increasingly hard line on inappropriate conduct by people in positions of authority."

The public disclosure of the payments came in a civil shareholder lawsuit filed in California Superior Court that alleges Google schemed to cover up persistent sexual harassment and discrimination. Google provided the information about executive payments and board deliberations in response to the suit.

Those documents cite evidence suggesting that Google's board and top executives, including co-founder Larry Page, played down in internal discussions the role of the allegations in the two executives' departures.

Meeting minutes from the board's compensation committee after Mr. Rubin's departure, for instance, read simply: "Andy Rubin resigned to start a hardware startup incubator."

In fact, Google had conducted an extensive internal investigation of Mr. Rubin, and found that his alleged victim was credible, according to the lawsuit.

Google later invested millions of dollars in Mr. Rubin's next company.

Separately, in February 2016 the compensation committee recorded that Mr. Singhal "left Google to focus on philanthropic activities." Google had earlier investigated the groping allegation against Mr. Singhal and decided to accept his resignation, according to the lawsuit.

The payouts put a fresh exclamation point on the simmering issue of gender equality and sexual harassment in Silicon Valley. The technology world employs a relative paucity of female executives, and a tiny fraction of venture-capital money goes to woman-led companies, research indicates.

Google employees in November staged a high-profile global walkout to protest a workplace culture that they said was unsafe for women. The company subsequently made changes, including committing to end a requirement for employee sexual-harassment claims to be handled in private arbitration.

The board materials provided for the lawsuit hint at potential further payments to other executives. Former human-resources head Laszlo Bock is quoted referring to "select past cases," in determining Mr. Singhal's exit package.

Mr. Bock didn't respond to a request for comment. The Google spokeswoman wouldn't comment on whether the company paid severance to or settlements for additional executives besides Messrs. Rubin and Singhal.

Write to Rob Copeland at rob.copeland@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 12, 2019 02:47 ET (06:47 GMT)

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