The board of Google parent company Alphabet Inc. is investigating executives’ handling of sexual harassment and other misconduct claims, and expects to complete its probe by early December, according to a recent court filing.
CNBC first reported the investigation on Wednesday, citing unspecified materials that added that the board had retained an unnamed law firm to assist with the investigation.
Alphabet’s board formed a special litigation committee this spring after shareholders filed a lawsuit alleging that company directors played direct roles in covering up sexual misconduct by top executives, according to a filing in the lawsuit from last month. The committee is working with law firm Cravath Swaine & Moore, the filing said.
It is unclear whether Cravath or the special litigation committee have interviewed any alleged victims, witnesses or accused executives, some of whom are no longer at Alphabet.
Alphabet spokeswoman Heather Dickinson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The board investigation includes looking into the behaviour of David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, who has been accused of having relationships with employees, CNBC said.
Drummond has acknowledged some mistakes with a relationship he had with a colleague, but said he has not started a relationship with any co-workers since then.
The shareholders who sued Alphabet leadership are awaiting the results of the internal investigation as they decide how to proceed with the case. They have called for various governance reforms at the company, including reducing executives’ voting control and adding more independent directors.
EU antitrust proposal not helping
Adding more pressure to Alphabet, the tech giant’s proposal to create a level playing field for price comparison shopping rivals to stave off fresh fines has not led to more traffic for its competitors, Europe’s antitrust chief said on Thursday.
European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager two years ago slapped Google with a €2.4-billion ($3.5 billion Cdn) fine for favouring its own price comparison shopping service and told it to stop its anti-competitive business practices.
The world’s most popular internet search engine subsequently offered to allow competitors to bid for advertising space at the top of a search page, giving them the chance to compete on equal terms.
The proposal does not seem to be doing the trick, Vestager said.
“We may see a show of rivals in the shopping box. We may see a pickup when it comes to clicks for merchants. But we still do not see much traffic for viable competitors when it comes to shopping comparison,” she told a Web Summit conference.
British price comparison service Foundem, whose original complaint triggered the EU case against Google, has said the company is not complying with the EU ruling and wants Vestager to launch a non-compliance case.
Vestager also said she was closely monitoring Google’s proposal in another case involving its Android mobile operating system for which the company was fined €4.34 billion for blocking rivals by pre-installing its Chrome browser and search app on Android smartphones and notebooks.
“So now Google will launch a choice screen where competitors can be chosen, and also as the default, with prices that are much more affordable than in the first version. It remains to be seen how this will work but we will follow it very very closely,” she said.
Google has previously said it would allow rivals to compete to be the default search engines on new Android devices in Europe, but they would have to pay for the privilege. Rivals have criticized the auction fees.