The board of directors at Alphabet, Google’s parent company, agreed to pay a former high-ranking executive up to $45 million when he left the company in early 2016 following an accusation of sexual misconduct, according to court documents released on Monday.
The payout to Amit Singhal, a former senior vice president overseeing Google Search, came after he was accused of drunkenly groping an employee at an off-campus event, according to a shareholder lawsuit filed against Alphabet in Santa Clara County. The company investigated the employee’s accusation and found it to be “credible,” according to the lawsuit.
The previously undisclosed payout highlights the board’s irresponsible trend of paying former executives accused of sexual misconduct rather than firing them for cause, according to the lawsuit. Alphabet’s board made a conscious and intentional (and bad‐faith) decision to conceal the sexual harassment at Google, thereby also breaching its duties of candor and good faith,” the suit said.
Singhal was paid a combined $30 million for the first two years after he left Google in February 2016, according to the suit, and between $5 million and $15 million for his third year away from the company, depending on whether he worked for a competitor. According to the suit, Singhal took a job at Uber a year after he left Google, but was fired a few weeks later for failing to disclose the allegations.
Google has “made many changes to our workplace and taken an increasingly hard line on inappropriate conduct by people in positions of authority,” a company spokesperson told The New York Times. “There are serious consequences for anyone who behaves inappropriately at Google.”
For Google’s critics, the payout reinforces a disturbing trend. Last fall, it was reported Google paid Android co-founder Andy Rubin $90 million when he left the company in 2014 after an employee said that he “coerced” her into having oral sex. A rep for Rubin denied any sexual misconduct accusations in October.
In a company-wide email from CEO Sundar Pichai in October, he said Google had fired 48 people in the last two years for sexual misconduct, including 13 people who were “senior managers and above.” The following week, hundreds of Google workers around the world walked out to protest the company’s perceived mishandling of sexual misconduct accusations.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.