A bombshell report by The New York Times in October revealed that Google, like many companies, was willing to bury inconvenient sexual harassment complaints against its executives. In the case of Andy Rubin, a veteran associated deeply with the creation of the Android operating system, his fall from grace was reportedly eased by a $US90 million ($125 million) golden parachute — something a number of Alphabet shareholders are now suing over.
The plaintiffs — pension plan funds for the Northern California Pipe Trades and the Teamsters Local 272, which combined represent approximately 10,000 — name Alphabet Inc., as well as every member of its board individually, alleging the windfall bestowed on Rubin represented a breach of fiduciary duty.
The board’s actions, the suit alleges, resulted in “hundreds of millions of dollars in generous exit packages to wrongdoers and exposed [Alphabet] to further litigation and loss of federal contracts over its hostile and discriminatory workplace”.
Not only does the suit criticise the tech giant’s willingness to pay out generous sums to alleged harassers, it also points to insufficient response from the company following the resulting walkout — where an estimated 20,000 Google employees globally left their offices in protest of these exact sorts of exit packages. At the time the walkout’s organisers made a variety of demands, few of which have yet been met.
Since the Walkout, and under significant public pressure, Defendants have taken small steps to address their previous failures. But, as described below, these belated, reactive actions — which apply only prospectively — are insufficient to remedy the harms that have already been done, or to address the systemic, cultural problems the Board has long permitted to fester at Alphabet.
Lastly, the suit mentions the data breaches that were discovered within the company’s failed social network, Google+. “
Defendants deliberately hid the Google+ data breach to avoid regulatory scrutiny,” it reads. “And, just as Alphabet’s long-standing failure to address its sexual harassment and discrimination problem set the stage for massive employee and shareholder outrage after the NYT’S revelations, the Company’s repeated failure to comply with data privacy rules in the past has increased the fallout and potential penalties it now faces.”
In addition to seeking awards for financial damages, the lawsuit also seeks an order to “end [Alphabet’s] hostile work environment” and “it’s pattern of non-compliance with data privacy laws”.
We’ve reached out to the law firm representing both funds, as well as Google, but had not received a response at time of writing.