Alphabet (nee Google) Chief Legal Counsel Leaving Amidst Allegations

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?

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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