What we know
- Amit Singhal was awarded $35 million in severance after leaving the company amid sexual misconduct claims.
- Details became available from a shareholder lawsuit against the company and several of its officials.
- The suit alleges that the settlement opens the company to reputational and financial damage.
Google paid former search executive Amit Singhal $35 million in an exit package when he was reportedly forced to resign after a sexual assault investigation, according to court documents released Monday.
Details of the exit package were revealed as part of a shareholder lawsuit against the company, one that followed a published report of payouts Google made to executives accused of sexual misconduct.
The lawsuit targets the board of Google parent Alphabet, charging its members had a duty to protect the company and its shareholders from risk and reputation damage. Instead, it says, the board agreed to pay off and otherwise support male executives facing misconduct charges — opening the company to reputational and financial damage by doing so.
The suit said the action was brought “against certain officers and directors of Alphabet, the parent company of Google LLC (“Google”), for their active and direct participation in a multi-year scheme to cover up sexual harassment and discrimination at Alphabet.”
Quotes from the board
Previously redacted portions of the lawsuit were made available Monday, including quotes from Alphabet board committee meetings.
One portion of the minutes showed Singhal, a senior vice president of search who left the company in 2016, received two $15 million payments and a payment of between $5 million to $15 million as part of a separation agreement. The total payment could have been up to $45 million.
Singhal was one subject of a New York Times investigation last year that revealed Google paid Android creator Andy Rubin $90 million in a severance package after the company found allegations of sexual assault against him were credible. Rubin has denied the claims.
Singhal has also denied the claims against him, saying in a statement to the AP in 2017 he had not been accused of harassment before and he left Google on his own terms. Singhal did not immediately return a request for comment Monday.
But The New York Times, citing three people briefed on the incident, reported an employee claimed Singhal groped her at an off-campus event. A Google investigation found her claims credible, according to the Times.
A short stint at Uber
Previously, the Times reported Singhal was paid “millions” in an exit package. Singhal later joined Uber, but left after just five weeks. News reports at the time said he failed to tell Uber he left Google because of a sexual harassment allegation.
Google acknowledged the unredacted claims in the lawsuit Monday and said in a statement there are “serious consequences for anyone who behaves inappropriately at Google.”
“In recent years, we’ve made many changes to our workplace and taken an increasingly hard line on inappropriate conduct by people in positions of authority,” the company said in an emailed statement.
The company was pressured to make changes by employee action last year. After news of Rubin’s massive payout, tens of thousands of Google workers around the worldin November to protest the company’s handling of sexual misconduct claims.
Google promised to be more forceful in handling such cases and ended mandatory arbitration in cases of sexual misconduct.
But the backlash has continued. Google Walkout organizers are still fighting the company on specific demands, and high-profile engineers have quit the company.
Last month, Google ended mandatory arbitration for all employee complaints in response to pressure from Walkout organizers.
The lawsuit, brought by shareholder James Martin, also references board minutes and emails reportedly show Rubin was awarded $150 million in equity compensation shortly before he left the company. The suit claims Alphabet CEO Larry Page awarded the grants, and only later received board approval.
“[T]he Board minutes and related emails produced by Google make it clear that Larry Page made the decision to approve the $150 million in equity awards directly, by himself, without the prior approval or involvement of the Board,” the suit alleges.