“Okay, Google.”

… [Listening]

“Why does your creator keep giving tons of money to executives accused of sexual assault or harassment?”

Here’s an article I found about sexual harassment at Twitter.

For full disclosure, that’s not an actual conversation I had with my phone this week, but it might as well have been. Having already suffered a walkout by women over revelations that Android creator Andy Rubin received a golden parachute on his way out the door after allegedly coercing some unwanted sexual activity from female employees, the problem clearly hasn’t gone away. This week brought news of yet another Google personality facing similar accusations who was similarly rewarded with some enviable bonus compensation before leaving. (NY Post)

Google paid former search executive Amit Singhal $35 million in an exit package when he was reportedly forced to resign after a sexual assault investigation, according to court documents released Monday.

Details of the exit package were revealed as part of a shareholder lawsuit against the company, one that followed a published report of payouts Google made to executives accused of sexual misconduct.

The lawsuit targets the board of Google parent Alphabet, charging that its members had a duty to protect the company and its shareholders from risk and reputation damage. Instead, it says, the board agreed to pay off and otherwise support male executives facing misconduct charges — opening the company to reputational and financial damage by doing so.

We should note that Singhal is still claiming that he did nothing wrong, had not been accused of sexual impropriety while at Google and left of his own free will, presumably to pursue other opportunities. But that story is sounding more and more dubious. Employees at the company told the New York Times that he’d been accused of groping a woman at an off-campus activity. Also, that “other opportunity” turned out to be with Uber, but he left there after only five weeks, reportedly for failing to tell his new employer about the accusations against him back at Google.

This report is quoting a figure of $35 million for Singhal’s golden parachute, but part of that was on a sliding scale. It may have been as high as $45 million. That’s one heck of a nice payday for being shown the door after a female employee claims you felt her up at a company party.

The question the Board of Directors is asking sounds like the right one. How does Google keep shooting themselves in the foot this way? It’s bad enough that their bottom line is taking a hit for tens of millions of dollars in bonus payments for an executive that’s leaving under a cloud of suspicion and possible criminal behavior. But on top of that, the word inevitably leaks out to the press and their reputation takes yet another hit. That leads to falling stock prices and hits the board members right in the pocketbook.

Wouldn’t it be easier to simply deny the executive the exit package, or at least put it on hold citing the sexual harassment/assault allegation, refusing to pay it out until the matter was fully investigated? Then they could dare him to sue them for it and drag his reputation further through the mud in the ensuing legal battle. It would save them money in the long run and show the public they were taking the issue of sexual harassment seriously. But at least for now, the golden parachute problems remain and Google’s reputation continues to degrade.