The revelation this week that Google made mega-payouts to two former executives accused of sexual harassment highlights the need for the adoption of a resolution by the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), which is a shareholder in parent company Alphabet Inc.
According to NLPC Chairman Peter Flaherty, “Alphabet’s management must end the stonewall. A necessary first step is to embrace our shareholder proposal on sexual harassment.”
According to disclosures related to a civil shareholder lawsuit that alleges Google consistently hid sexual harassment and discrimination claims by employees, former Android software creator Andy Rubin was paid $90 million upon his departure, and head of search Amit Singhal was offered $45 million when he left, although the amount was reduced to $15 million because he was hired by a competitor.
The latest earnings report from Alphabet, Google’s parent company, demonstrates that the company is still a cash cow, but it does nothing to allay fears about the intrusive role “big data” plays in our lives. Nor does it provide respite from serious credibility problems facing the company’s leadership.
For instance, Google CEO Sundar Pichai may have lied to Congress. Pichai testified in December before the House Judiciary Committee, where members grilled him about transparency, data collection, and how Google filters search results. Moreover, several Republican congressmen wanted answers about political and ideological bias.
The plaintive Pichai was unequivocal. “We don’t manually intervene on any particular search result,” he claimed, because of the massive scale of trillions of searches each year. “It is not possible for an individual employee or groups of employees to manipulate our search results.”
National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) has submitted a shareholder proposal to Alphabet, the parent company of Google, addressing the issue of sexual harassment. Last week, Google announced that it would end its policy of requiring mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment claims. The move apparently prompted similar actions by Facebook, eBay and Airbnb.
The Alphabet annual meeting is expected to take place in June. We hope that the company will embrace our resolution to demonstrate its commitment to dealing with this problem. If the company does not support it, we call upon fellow shareholders to act.
NLPC sponsors the Corporate Integrity Project. Here is the text of the resolution and supporting statement:
On the same day an Associated Press survey of its member editors determined that workplace sexual harassment was the No. 1 story of 2017, Google’s corporate parent company Alphabet said its CEO, Eric Schmidt, will leave as chairman of its board of directors.
The development comes as Google became the subject of a recent report about corporation-wide mistreatment of women, accompanied by heightened scrutiny of Schmidt’s increasing reputation as a “womanizer.”
According to the New York Post, “news outlets have been sniffing around Schmidt’s former flames looking for a Harvey Weinstein-like bombshell,” but an anonymous source said “there is no sexual harassment.” A Google insider told the newspaper all his relationships have been “consensual” and that there are no settlements from the company to keep things quiet.
After saying shortly after the inauguration that he expected Donald Trump to do “evil things,” Alphabet (parent company of Google) executive chairman Eric Schmidt was back with another rant earlier this month about the president.
This time the adjective addressed intellect rather than malevolence. Schmidt seized an opportunity to vent at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, bemoaning limits on special visas for foreign workers in “special occupations,” mainly high-tech fields. But the target of his frustration wasn’t just the president.
“I spent the last 20 years announcing that the single stupidest policy in the entire American political system was the limit on H-1B visas,” Schmidt said. “I have recently been trumped (pun apparently intended) by an America where you take the highly legal and highly technical people of seven countries … and you keep them trapped at JFK so our lawyers can spring them out.”