Revelations last week from a former Google executive’s legal dispute with his estranged wife underscore an even greater need for the search giant to adopt measures outlined in a recent shareholder proposal presented by the National Legal and Policy Center.
The new developments came from the release of court filings by a California state judge in a clash between Andy Rubin, creator of Google’s popular Android operating system, and his wife Rie. The New York Times had reported in a widely distributed October story that the Silicon Valley company gave Rubin a celebratory send-off upon his departure in 2014, which cloaked the fact that he was told to resign over coercive sexual misconduct and an affair with a subordinate. Rather than quietly send their prized employee away, he was instead granted a golden parachute of $90 million – paid out in increments of approximate $2 million per month over four years, according to Times sources.
Rie Rubin alleges in a civil complaint against her husband that he hid payments from his “former employer” from her, while also concealing various extramarital affairs, according to a BuzzFeed report last week. The filing is part of Mrs. Rubin’s effort to nullify a prenuptial agreement she says she was forced to sign two weeks before she was due to deliver their child, and three days before they wed. She charges Andy Rubin with, among other things, “fraud,” “misrepresentation,” “concealment,” “breach of contract,” and “negligence.”
“While the lawsuit never explicitly states that Google paid $90 million as part of an exit package following an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct in 2014, it does state that ‘Rubin concealed his income’ and that his wife ‘even now does not understand the full scope of his finances,’” BuzzFeed reported. “Rie Rubin also alleged that her husband opened a separate bank account a few months before he left Google in October 2014 to receive his earnings and make ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to other women.’”
The allegations only get more ugly in the complaint, with Mrs. Rubin claiming her husband even ran a “sex ring.” There are conflicting reports as to whether Rie and Andy Rubin are divorced yet, but those proceedings – which are separate from her effort to annul the prenuptial agreement – have at least begun. Andy Rubin’s lawyers claim it is a typical “family law dispute” and that the complaint is “full of false claims.”
Following the New York Times report (which also detailed circumstances of two other senior executives accused of sexual impropriety who were protected by Google and received huge payouts), CEO Sundar Pichai told employees in an email that 48 employees – 13 of which had been in senior management – were terminated over the previous two years, due to sexual misconduct. The hidden efforts to keep the disgusting behavior in the shadows sparked outrage among the company’s employees worldwide, who staged a massive walkout last November in protest.
The new sordid details of Rubin’s alleged behavior exacerbate the shame and embarrassment that Google’s leadership should feel over the handsome payouts they awarded to the company’s cads. But co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who are now CEO and President respectively of Google parent company Alphabet Inc., could not even bring themselves to attend its annual meeting last month to face shareholders concerned about the sexual misconduct problems and other issues. That didn’t stop the pair – who own controlling amounts of shares (51.3 percent) in Alphabet and thus can do whatever they want – to shoot down shareholder proposals that sought to address those challenges.
Among those proposals was one presented by National Legal and Policy Center president Peter Flaherty, which sought to bring transparency to how Alphabet/Google handles sexual misconduct allegations, and to implement effective deterrents to such behavior. It was summarily rejected along with a dozen other shareholder propositions.
“I can’t figure out why the company opposes this proposal on sexual harassment after pledging to do all it can about sexual harassment,” Flaherty said at the annual meeting.
“Well, maybe it’s because there is not an ounce of sincerity in any of the reasons Alphabet cites. The real reason is that this company, and most of the rest of corporate America, is not governed by what is in the interests of shareholders or society as a whole.”
The fact that Page and Brin have had their own questionable relationships under Google’s roof could help explain the proposal’s rejection as well. It would appear that between their conduct, and their protection of Rubin and others, that Alphabet/Google cares more about protecting their leaders’ selfish interests than those of the shareholders and public they claim to serve.