Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Sex and the CEO

A few notorious cases where CEOs have hit the headlines for the wrong reasons

Published: May 21, 2013 07:43:46 PM IST
Updated: May 22, 2013 01:49:47 PM IST
Sex and the CEO
Image: Reuters
iGATE Corporation announced that its board of directors has terminated the employment of president and chief executive officer Phaneesh Murthy as a result of an investigation of a claim by a subordinate employee of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment in the corporate sector, is not uncommon despite several companies having clear policies to punish misdemeanors. Here are a few notorious cases of the recent past, where CEOs have hit the headlines for the wrong reasons.
IMF chief, Dominique Strauss Kahn, age 62, was arrested before a Paris bound flight from New York for sexually assaulting a housekeeper at a Manhattan hotel. The charges included criminal sex act and attempted rape.

Representative Anthony Weiner, a six time democratic congressman from Brooklyn, New York was caught sending links to sexual pictures to a college student from Seattle over Twitter. After repeatedly denying the story, Weiner finally confessed to sending sexually suggestive pictures to several women he met online. He was later asked to resign by the Democratic National Committee.

Jang Suk Woo, CEO of Open World Entertainment, was charged with sexual assault against female trainees in his agency and was sentenced to 6 years in prison. He was charged with rape and violation of child protection laws. Open World Entertainment is an entertainment agency which includes pop South Korean bands such as The Boss and X-5.  

CEO Mark McInnes of David Jones, an upscale Australian department store chain, resigned after a sexual harassment complaint by a 25 year old female staff member. "As a chief executive officer and as a person I have a responsibility to many, and today I formally acknowledge that I have committed serious errors of judgment and have inexcusably let down the female staff member. I have also let down my partner, my family, all my staff, the board and our shareholders. I apologise to everyone I have let down,” said Mark Mcinnes. After the case was filed, several unflattering stories appeared in the press.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., one of the world’s largest hotel companies, franchises over 1,134 properties and employs over 171,000 people. Steven J. Heyer, the CEO of Starwood Hotels was charged with sending inappropriate emails and text messages to a female employee while married. He was ousted by the board and was ineligible for a $35 million severance compensation.

Senator Bob Packwood, a former Oregon senator in the United States, allegedly sexually harassed a female who was 29 years of age through “groping, forced kissing and propositioning sex.” He was the chair of the Senate Finance Committee and resigned after the Senate Ethics Committee suggested expulsion for ethical misconduct.    

The CEO of Penguin Books Canada, David Davidar, was terminated by the company allegedly for sexually harassing a woman colleague named Lisa Rundle, who asked for $523,000 in damages. His abrupt fall was due to the allegation of repeatedly sexually harassing and sexually assaulting her at the Frankfurt Book Fair where Rundle was fired for complaining to superiors about Davidar. Before the charges, Davidar was one of the most influential people in the Indian publishing industry.

Mark Hurd, CEO of Hewlett Packard, repeatedly pressured and harassed Jodie Fischer, a female contractor who worked as a marketing consultant for HP. He resigned in August 6, 2010 as CEO. Hurd’s resignation came as a shock to Wall Street because Hurd had surpassed expectations when HP beat IBM as the world’s largest technology company. 

Moose International is an international service organization that conducts $75 million to $100 million worth of community service for the caring of children, teens and retirees in need. Eight days after the CEO, William B. Airey, was accused of molesting a 12 year old boy in 1980 named Jason Peck, he resigned. Airey was not allowed contact with residential students until the case was resolved.

The CEO of Ryanair, a well known Irish low cost airline, was sentenced to two years in jail after losing his appeal of sexually assaulting a young woman in her home in Dublin on November 19, 2006.

Correction: Article has been updated with spelling corrections for IBM