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Senior Google exec surprised as anyone at reported harassment payouts

Google's Europe chief, Matt Brittin, says he found out about his company's alleged sexual harassment payouts the same way the rest of us did: via The New York Times.

Web Summit 2018 - Day 3

Matt Brittin supported the Google walkouts.

Getty Images

As Google's president of business and operations for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Matt Brittin is the company's most senior executive in Europe. But in spite of his seniority, he says he was shocked to find out over the past few weeks about the company's alleged payouts to a senior executive who reportedly left Google due to sexual harassment complaints.

"When I read those stories in The New York Times that led to this, I was as disappointed as anybody else," Brittin said while discussing the Google walkouts that took place last week. Brittin spoke on stage at Web Summit in Lisbon on Wednesday. He added that he was "surprised" by the revelations. "I didn't know about it," he said. "It was at a very senior level."

The walkouts were arranged in response to a New York Times investigative report on sexual harassment at Google. According to the Times report, Android creator Andy Rubin was accused by a worker of coercing her to perform oral sex on him in a hotel room in 2013. Google reportedly found the allegation to be credible. According to the Times, the company then asked for Rubin's resignation, gave him an exit package of $90 million and didn't mention the misconduct in his departure announcement.

In response to the Times article, Rubin tweeted, "These false allegations are part of a smear campaign." He also said, "the story contains numerous inaccuracies about my employment at Google and wild exaggerations about my compensation."

The Googlers who walked out had a list of demands for the company, specifically around its internal arbitration process for handling misconduct allegations. Brittin expressed his support for colleagues who took part in the walkouts, and thought those who participated did so "in a very thoughtful way." He spent time talking to them, he said, and was sympathetic to their objections and their desire for change. 

"I think it's not good enough, and I think we need to change what we're doing," Brittin said. "I and other members of the management team need to look at what we can do."

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