Board members of Alphabet, the parent company of tech giant Google, are being sued by shareholders over multi-million payouts to top executives investigated for sexual harassment at the Silicon Valley behemoth.
The lawsuit, filed on Thursday in California, claims that the board failed in its duty to shareholders by approving big severance payouts to executives who left the company, while keeping details of their alleged sexual misconduct under wraps.
Among the defendants named in the lawsuit by shareholder James Martin are Google’s co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as well as former CEO Eric Schmidt, who were all on the board’s audit and compensation committees that approved the payouts.
Last October, Google revealed to its employees that it had dismissed 48 people for sexual harassment over the past two years, without payouts. Martin’s lawsuit, however, focuses on millions paid to two executives – Andy Rubin and Amit Singhal – who were both accused of sexual misconduct.
Rubin left Alphabet in 2014 with a four-year $90 million payout. He was the creator of the Android mobile operating system and ran the company’s mobile division. The reasons for his departure were a mystery until a New York Times report in October accused him of sexual misconduct with a female staff member, which the paper said was covered up by Google.
Another executive, Amit Singhal, left Alphabet in 2016 in a similar fashion, also amid sexual harassment claims, the lawsuit says.
The Times report caused widespread anger among Alphabet staff, with thousands of employees staging walkouts at Google offices around the world. Commenting on Martin’s lawsuit, some of the staff involved in organizing the October walkout released a statement Thursday, slamming the Google board for not having the employees’ “best interests at heart.”
“Google’s culture of racism, discrimination, and sexual harassment is not the result of a few individual bad actors — it’s built into how the system works, and won’t be fixed without structural change,” they wrote.
Any damages Martin is seeking will be directed back to Google, as his objective is to reform Alphabet’s corporate governance, his attorney Louise Renne told Bloomberg.
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