Alphabet board faces lawsuit over alleged sexual misconduct cover-up

Lawsuit seeks to force Google to upgrade its governance and oversight to stop future sexual harassment and discrimination

A shareholder's lawsuit filed in a US court says the board of Google parent Alphabet played a direct role in covering up sexual misconduct claims against two top executives in 2014 and 2016.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit in San Mateo County Superior Court in California by shareholder James Martin cites minutes from Alphabet board and board committee meetings. The lawsuit seeks to force Google to upgrade its governance and oversight to stop future sexual harassment and discrimination.

It also seeks to have shareholders vote on proposals to end non-disclosure agreements and mandatory arbitrations that keep suspected misconduct from becoming public and to force directors to pay punitive and other damages to Alphabet.

Attorneys for Martin said they plan to show that Google suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in damages because of the board's actions.

The sum stems from payouts made to executives accused of sexual misconduct, lost productivity from employees around the world walking off the job briefly in November to protest the payouts and brand reputation damage.

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai apologized last year to employees for the companies' past handling of sexual misconduct cases and vowed to improve practices.

The employee demonstrations followed a New York Times report in October that said Google in 2014 gave a US$90 million exit package to then senior vice president Andy Rubin after he was accused of sexual harassment. Rubin said the report mischaracterized the circumstances of his departure.

Martin's lawsuit said Alphabet board members were directly involved in deciding how to deal with Rubin after an internal investigation found the allegations against him credible.

(Reporting by Paresh Dave and Jonathan Stempel; editing by Grant McCool)

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