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Google’s parent company is facing a lawsuit for its alleged mishandling of an explosive sexual misconduct case

The lawsuit against Alphabet’s board alleges that Google leadership’s misconduct has caused “severe financial and reputational damage” to the company.

Google employees walking through a glass door under a sign reading “Google.”
Google’s UK headquarters
Dan Kitwood / Getty Images
Shirin Ghaffary is a senior Vox correspondent covering the social media industry. Previously, Ghaffary worked at BuzzFeed News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and TechCrunch.

A Google shareholder sued the board of the search giant’s parent company, Alphabet, accusing the company’s co-founders of mishandling sexual misconduct claims against several high-powered former executives.

The suit filed by shareholder James Martin alleges that company leadership “had active and direct participation in a multi‐year scheme to cover up sexual harassment and discrimination” at Alphabet. The focus of the lawsuit revolves around the company’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations against former executive Andy Rubin, among others. Rubin reportedly received a $90 million exit package even as a credible accusation of sexual misconduct was revealed through an internal investigation.

Revelations about Google’s handling of Rubin’s departure resulted in a massive company backlash, culminating in 20,000 Google employees walking out of work in November 2018.

Among other allegations, Rubin was accused of coercing a female coworker into performing oral sex on him in a hotel room. Rubin has refuted the claims.

The new lawsuit accuses Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin of giving Rubin “a hero’s farewell” by offering him the payout, not disclosing the reason for his departure, and investing in his next venture.

The charges against the board include breaching fiduciary duty, wasting corporate assets, unjust enrichment, and concealing adverse information concerning the company’s operations.

Plaintiff Martin is not currently or formerly employed by Google or Alphabet, according to Louise Renne of Renne Public Law Group, one of the firms representing him in the case.

Renne told Recode that Martin is not seeking a specific dollar amount in restitution, but the lawsuit does request that the parties accused of sexual misconduct return all profits, benefits, and other compensation to the company.

It also calls for a number of changes to Alphabet’s corporate structure, including nominating three new candidates to the board of directors.

“What we’re saying is — it’s time for Google to change, and the change has to include the top,” said Renne.

Renne declined to specify how many Alphabet shares Martin holds.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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