SAN FRANCISCO — A Google shareholder sued the company’s board of directors and senior management on Thursday, arguing that the tech giant’s leaders breached their duty to investors when they allegedly covered up sexual misconduct by executives and gave harassers large payouts.
The suit, by shareholder James Martin, stems from revelations last year that the company awarded a $90 million exit package to executive Andy Rubin, the creator of the Android operating system, even as Rubin was being pushed out over sexual misconduct accusations. Google had asked for Rubin’s resignation in 2014 after determining that allegations that he had coerced a woman into performing oral sex in a hotel room the previous year were credible.
Rubin was celebrated when he left Google, and the real reason for his departure was made public by the Information and the New York Times, which also reported the payout. Rubin has denied the allegations.
The story has roiled Google’s workforce, a #MeToo moment that prompted thousands of employees in offices across the world to walk off the job in protest.
Thursday’s shareholder lawsuit, which is being brought by several high-profile attorneys, including a former chair of the Federal Election Commission and former city attorney of San Francisco, takes particular aim at Google’s board of directors. The suit charges prominent venture capitalists John Doerr and Ram Shriram, who led the board’s leadership development and compensation committee, with approving the payment while being fully apprised of the allegations.
“If the board of directors is in charge, they were supposed to “do the right thing,” and in this case they’ve done anything but the right thing,” said Louise Renne, the former city attorney of San Francisco.
The suit also targets Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin; executive chairman Eric Schmidt; Rubin; current chief executive Sundar Pichai, former human resources director Laszlo Bock; chief legal officer David Drummond; former executive Amit Singhal; and others.
The charges include breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, abuse of power, and corporate waste.
Two other shareholder plaintiffs, Northern California Pipe Trades Pension Plan and the Teamsters Local 272 Labor Management Pension Fund, filed a separate suit making similar allegations.
Google declined to comment.