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Google sued for covering up $90m payout to former executive accused of sexual assault

Google’s board of directors is being sued for approving a $90m (£70m) payout to a former executive and covering up allegations including that he forced a female employee to perform oral sex.

The lawsuit, brought by shareholder James Martin, claims directors made the payment to stop details of the allegations becoming public. It also cites examples of alleged sexual misconduct by other former employees which Google directors kept private.

Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin allowed Mr Rubin to “quietly resign” even after an internal investigation had found the allegations against him credible, the complaint filed in California alleges.

“The directors’ wrongful conduct allowed the illegal conduct to proliferate and continue,” the complaint states. “As such, members of Alphabet’s board were knowing and direct enablers of the sexual harassment and discrimination.”

The lawsuit also cites allegations that while Mr Rubin was at Google he engaged in “human sex trafficking – paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to women to be, in Rubin’s own words, ‘owned’ by him”.

Mr Page, Mr Brin and other top executives failed in their duty by allowing harassment to occur at their company, approving excessive severance payments and keeping details of the allegations private, the lawsuit alleges.

David Drummond, the chief legal officer of Google’s parent company Alphabet, and investor Ram Shriram are named among others in the court filings.

The claimants say that minutes of meetings demonstrate that board members engaged in conduct that harmed Alphabet. The minutes were obtained under California state laws allowing shareholders access to certain company documents.

According to the lawsuit, Mr Page and Mr Brin signed off on the deal “since they apparently feared that if they fired Rubin for cause, he would sue Google for wrongful termination and all the tawdry details of sexual harassment by senior executives at Google would become public”.

Mr Rubin created Android, the world’s most widely used operating system, and ran Google’s mobile division before leaving in 2014.

The New York Times reported in October that a $90m payoff for Mr Rubin was approved by Google executives after sexual harassment allegations emerged and an investigation was conducted.

News of the deal sparked outrage among Google employees, thousands of whom staged a walkout in protest.

Google staff walked out in November after details of the payments were maid public (Reuters)

Ellen Winick Stross, a lawyer for Mr Rubin, said in a statement: “This lawsuit, like much of the recent media coverage, mischaracterises Andy’s departure from Google and sensationalises claims made about Andy by his ex-wife.

“Andy left Google voluntarily. Andy denies any misconduct, and we will vigorously defend him against these baseless claims.’’

The suit seeks damages from the directors on behalf of the company, including the return of tens of millions of dollars paid in severance packages.