David Drummond, chief legal officer for Alphabet (Google, we’re talking about Google here), will be departing the company after 20 years. Mr. Drummond filed the company’s original articles of incorporation as an attorney with the law firm Wilson Sonsini. He was Google’s first general counsel. In the last three months, Mr. Drummond has unloaded $221 million in stock options. In 2018, his total compensation was $47.3 million. 2019 compensation remains to be seen.
Mr. Drummond departs under a cloud of allegations. The first is that he is named in a suit brought by shareholders that alleges Mr. Drummond, other officers, and its board were “actively and directly” involved in an alleged coverup of sexual harassment and discrimination at Alphabet. Alphabet and/or Google have denied the claims, but were given an extension to file a response to the 82-page complaint. Turns out that a shareholder got access to the board minutes under nondisclosure terms. Excerpts from the minutes turned up in the complaint filed with the court, but they are redacted (one assumes only to the public. At some point the judge will need a look-see.) The suit was filed at the time 20,000 Google employees took to the streets to protest the company’s inappropriate handling of sexual harassment complaints.
Jennifer Blakely, a former contract manager in the legal department, claims that she had an affair with Mr. Drummond that began in 2004. She adds that she had a child with him in 2007. Mr. Drummond responded that he was “far from perfect” and that he holds a “very different view” on the Blakely allegations. Mr. Drummond has since married another employee from the legal department and will leave the company (ies) at the end of January 2020.
Mr. Drummond was behind Google’s decision to pull out of China in 2010. There was the human rights issue, but Google also discovered that the Chinese government had hacked the Google accounts of several activists in the country. Google went back in 2016. Like the NBA, Google said, “What the heck!” — too big of an economy to not do business there. And Google earned its social responsibility wings and moral authority from their, at least initial, avoidance of evil, as their credo went.
The allegations and responses belie the reputation of this avant garde second happiest place on earth. Amidst the toys for thinking innovation, the juice bars, and free food were so not-so-nice people when it comes to the one-on-one stuff that exists in all workplaces. Seems as if the management and managers were part of the problem.
The Barometer offers a parting thought, the same parting thought in all of these questionable-behavior-by-executives cases: What on earth were they thinking?