Microsoft opens harassment investigation sought by investors –


Arjuna Capital co-founder and managing partner Natasha Lamb speaks with an Associated Press reporter in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass. on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. Lamb spoke with the Associated Press of Microsoft’s growth and investor interest in so-called ESG environmental, social and governance assets. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Microsoft announced Thursday that it is opening an investigation into its response to sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the workplace, including its handling of allegations about co-founder Bill Gates.

The review is a response to pressure from Microsoft’s investors. Nearly 78% of shareholders at Microsoft’s November 30 annual meeting voted to demand more accountability from the company in its response to workplace sexual harassment complaints.

“We are committed to not only reviewing the report, but learning from the evaluation so that we can continue to improve our employee experiences,” CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal reported last year that Microsoft’s board of directors hired a law firm to investigate Gates in 2019 after a Microsoft engineer alleged in a letter that she had a relationship. sex with Gates for several years. Gates resigned from the board in 2020.

Proposals from activist investors to change corporate policy rarely succeed. Microsoft had urged shareholders to reject a December proposal to get a report on the company’s approach to harassment and discrimination complaints.

But the investment firm behind the proposal, Massachusetts-based Arjuna Capital, said it was pleased with how the company has responded since the winning vote.

“I’m actually quite impressed with how Microsoft has followed through on its commitment since the annual meeting,” said Natasha Lamb, co-founder and managing partner of the social investment firm.

She said she has had talks with Microsoft about how the investigation will proceed. The board authorized the company to engage the law firm Arent Fox to conduct the review.

“Our concern is not just what happened with Microsoft in the past, but whether this behavior is addressed and mitigated in the future,” she said in an interview Thursday. “Ultimately, from an investor perspective, it comes down to how the company treats its employees and whether it is able to attract and retain talent.”

The company said its public report will include an assessment of the effectiveness of its policies against harassment and discrimination. It will also summarize the findings of any allegations of harassment against board members and senior executives, including the handling of the 2019 Gates investigation, and outline steps to hold executives accountable.


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