Law­suit: Google’s par­ent firm lost bil­lions through re­sponse to sex­ual ha­rass­ment

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - STAY CONNECTED - BY ETHAN BARON Mer­cury News

Google par­ent com­pany Al­pha­bet’s board of di­rec­tors cost the firm bil­lions of dol­lars by cov­er­ing up sex­ual abuse by se­nior ex­ec­u­tives and pay­ing them mil­lions as they were qui­etly ousted, a new law­suit by a share­holder claims.

Share­holder James Martin is su­ing the Al­pha­bet board and se­nior ex­ec­u­tives, in­clud­ing two who al­legedly re­ceived huge pay­outs as they were forced out of the com­pany over claims of sex­ual mis­con­duct.

A lawyer for Martin claimed Thurs­day that the board’s re­sponse to sex­ual ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions cost the com­pany a $90 mil­lion sev­er­ance pack­age to An­droid cre­ator Andy Ru­bin, ac­cused of co­erc­ing a fe­male Google em­ployee into oral sex, plus mil­lions more in sev­er­ance for Search chief Amit Sing­hal, who was ac­cused of drunk­enly grop­ing a fe­male Googler at an off-site event.

A world­wide walk­out in Novem­ber by thou­sands of Google em­ploy­ees, in re­sponse to rev­e­la­tions in the New York Times about Ru­bin’s al­leged golden para­chute, cost Google hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars be­yond the ex­ec­u­tives’ pay­outs, and fall­out from the pur­ported scan­dal led to bil­lions of dol­lars in losses to Al­pha­bet’s value in the stock mar­ket, lawyer Frank Bot­tini said at a press con­fer­ence in San Fran­cisco.

Al­pha­bet’s mar­ket cap­i­tal­iza­tion was about $760 bil­lion just be­fore the New York Times ar­ti­cle on Ru­bin was pub­lished, and as of Thurs­day was $748 bil­lion.

In­ter­nal probes found sex­ual mis­con­duct claims against Ru­bin and Sing­hal cred­i­ble, the law­suit al­leged. The suit also cited re­ports of pre­vi­ous sex­ual mis­con­duct by se­nior Googlers.

“The con­duct of Ru­bin and other ex­ec­u­tives was dis­gust­ing, il­le­gal, im­moral, de­grad­ing to women, and con­trary to ev­ery prin­ci­ple that Google claims it abides by,” the law­suit claimed.

Google did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment on the law­suit, filed Thurs­day morn­ing in San Ma­teo County Su­pe­rior Court. Ru­bin in an Au­gust tweet dis­missed as a “smear cam­paign” the claim that he had co­erced a woman into sex in a ho­tel room. Sing­hal could not be im­me­di­ately reached for com­ment.

Google said last year it had fired 48 peo­ple in the pre­vi­ous two years for sex­ual ha­rass­ment, in­clud­ing 13 who were se­nior man­agers or above, and none re­ceived sev­er­ance pack­ages.

Martin’s lawyers said the law­suit was based on min­utes from board meet­ings, which were ob­tained from Al­pha­bet on the con­di­tion that the con­tents be kept con­fi­den­tial. De­tails of al­le­ga­tions are redacted from pub­lic court fil­ings.

Al­pha­bet’s di­rec­tors paid Ru­bin “hand­somely” to “en­sure his si­lence,” the suit claimed, “since they ap­par­ently feared that if they fired Ru­bin for cause, he would sue Google for wrong­ful ter­mi­na­tion and all the tawdry de­tails of sex­ual ha­rass­ment by se­nior ex­ec­u­tives at Google would be­come pub­lic.”

Ru­bin, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit, was also found to have had bondage videos on his work com­puter at Google, and the com­pany “merely docked Ru­bin’s bonus slightly,” the law­suit claimed.

While se­nior male ex­ec­u­tives ac­cused of sex­ual mis­con­duct at Google re­ceived hefty golden parachutes, Al­pha­bet em­ployed a dou­ble stan­dard for dis­ci­pline, the law­suit al­leged.

“If you were a high-level male ex­ec­u­tive at Google re­spon­si­ble for gen­er­at­ing mil­lions of dol­lars in rev­enue, Google would let you en­gage in sex­ual ha­rass­ment. And if you get caught, Google would keep it quiet, let you re­sign, and pay you mil­lions of dol­lars in sev­er­ance,” the suit claimed. “If you were a low-level em­ployee at Google and were ac­cused of sex­ual ha­rass­ment or dis­crim­i­na­tion, you would be fired for cause with no sev­er­ance ben­e­fits.”

The law­suit and a sim­i­lar one re­port­edly filed Wed­nes­day come amid the #Metoo move­ment against sex­ual mis­con­duct to­ward women. Lawyers for Martin said they hoped the suit would gen­er­ate ef­fects be­yond Google. “There re­ally needs to be a mas­sive change not only at Google but also many Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­nies, where we know it’s the same old boys’ club even to­day, even af­ter all the Metoo that has tran­spired,” said lawyer Ann Ravel.

Martin, a Google in­vestor who does not work for the com­pany, is seek­ing un­spec­i­fied dam­ages and a change to a

“one share, one vote” stock struc­ture from the dual-class struc­ture that cur­rently gives Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin about 60 per­cent of vot­ing power in Al­pha­bet share­holder votes.

Pen­sion funds filed a sim­i­lar law­suit against Al­pha­bet in the same court Wed­nes­day, the San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle re­ported.

Orca calf born to en­dan­gered Puget Sound pod

Re­searchers say there’s a new calf among the pop­u­la­tion of crit­i­cally en­dan­gered killer whales that live in the wa­ters be­tween Wash­ing­ton state and Canada.

Ken Bal­comb, found­ing di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Whale Re­search, told The Seat­tle Times his staff first saw the calf Fri­day at the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. He said the young­ster looks healthy, but sur­vival rates for baby or­cas are only about 50 per­cent.

The whales have been starv­ing amid a dearth of salmon. Ves­sel noise and pol­lu­tion have com­pli­cated their plight. No calf born in the last three years has sur­vived.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.