Vice Media has suspended two senior executives -- president Andrew Creighton and chief digital officer Mike Germano -- following a New York Times report last month detailing sexual harassment allegations against them.
The company's decision to put the two execs on leave was announced in a memo to staff Tuesday from Vice COO/CFO Sarah Broderick. The news was first reported by Times reporter Emily Steel, who wrote the expose on Vice that was published Dec. 23.
A Vice rep declined to comment.
Also in her memo Tuesday, Broderick noted that Vice has committed to attaining a 50-50 ratio of male and female employees "at every level across the organization" by 2020 and set a goal of achieving pay parity by the end of 2018.
According to the NYT, Creighton paid $135,000 in 2016 to a former Vice employee after she alleged she was fired after rejecting his suggestion they have a romantic relationship.
Broderick, in the memo sent Tuesday morning, said the claim against Creighton was reviewed in 2016 by an independent law firm and was "found to lack merit, but the company agreed to settle the matter in order to avoid the expense and distraction of litigation."
However, she said, a special committee of Vice's board is reviewing the matter and will make a recommendation about Creighton's employment status prior to the company's Jan. 11 board meeting. "In the meantime, Andrew has suggested, and we agree, that he remain out of the office on leave until the recommendation from the committee is made to Sr. management," Broderick wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by Variety.
Germano is the founder and CEO of digital ad agency Carrot Creative, which Vice acquired in 2013. According to the New York Times story, Germano had told former strategist Amanda Rue at Carrot Creative's holiday party in 2012 that he had not wanted to hire her "because he wanted to have sex with her." Another former Carrot employee, Gabrielle Schaefer, told the Times that Germano had "pulled her onto his lap" at a company event at a bar in 2014.
In the staff memo, Broderick said the claims about Germano will be investigated by Vice's HR team with an external investigator, "a process that Mike has encouraged, and Mike will be on leave until the investigation is concluded." The day-to-day operations of Carrot in the meantime will be led by Adam Katzenback, reporting to Ryan Mack, COO of Vice's creative agency Virtue Worldwide.
All told, the New York Times reported that more than 20 female employees at Vice were subject to or witnessed other employees experiencing sexual harassment.
In response to the Times story, Vice co-founders Shane Smith and Suroosh Alvi acknowledged problems at the company in a statement. "From the top down, we have failed as a company to create a safe and inclusive workplace where everyone, especially women, can feel respected and thrive," according to the statement from Smith and Alvi, neither of whom were accused directly of any misconduct in the NYT article.
Creighton and Germano are the only two Vice employees accused of misconduct in the Times piece who are still employed by the Brooklyn-based company.
In late November, Vice fired three employees for violations of its HR policies. That included Jason Mojica, head of Vice's documentary films unit and former editor-in-chief of ViceNews.com. Mojica was accused by ex-Vice employee Martina Veltroni of retaliation after they had a sexual relationship, and Vice in 2016 reached a settlement for an unknown amount with Veltroni, the Times reported.
Vice has undertaken several steps to address harassment in the workplace, which also was the focus of a Daily Beast report in November. That has included hiring Vice global head of HR Susan Tohyama (formerly with the NBA); forming an advisory board with members including Gloria Steinem to advise Vice's management and employees on workplace-conduct and diversity issues; eliminating the "nontraditional workplace agreement" that staffers were previously required to sign; and mandatory sexual-harassment training for all full-time employees and freelancers.
Investors in Vice include private-equity firm TPG, Disney, 21st Century Fox, WPP and Raine Group. Disney would acquire Fox's stake in Vice under the companies' pending deal announced last month