Yichuan Cao | NurPhoto | Getty Images
Google’s chief compliance officer for more than a decade, Andy Hinton, has departed the company, following a wave of executive departures that started in December.
Hinton left the company in late March, he told CNBC in an interview. He’s becoming an advisor to a start-up called #NotMe, which claims to allow employees to make anonymous complaints about workplace issues, including the types of complaints Google has faced in recent years. However, Hinton said the mounting controversies at Google weren’t the reason for his departure, and that he wanted to spend more time with family.
Hinton served as vice-president and chief compliance officer at Google for more than 13 years. Compliance chiefs at large companies like Google typically help them comply with regulations and internal guidelines and bylaws.
His departure comes in amid of a slow-rolling executive shakeup over the last several months. In December, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepped down from their roles as the CEO and President of Google’s holding company, Alphabet. The company’s long-time chief legal officer David Drummond retired at the end of January. In February, Google human resources chief Eileen Naughton said she’d be stepping down from her role.
It also comes amid growing tensions between employees and management.
A shareholder lawsuit launched last year alleged several senior execs mishandled claims of sexual misconduct at the company (Hinton was not named in that lawsuit), and the company’s board of directors has investigated some of those claims. Other employees have alleged that when they did try to report misconduct to the company’s human resources department, they were instead faced with retaliation. Alphabet also faces a number of issues related to data privacy and an imminent antitrust hearing with the U.S. House committee.
Prior to Google, Hinton worked for GE and in New York as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, where he served as a federal prosecutor.
Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment as to Hinton’s replacement.
A new attempt
While Hinton claimed the employee unrest at Google did not drive his departure, it did play a role in him becoming an formal advisor for Not Me, which is building an anonymous reporting application for employees to file misconduct reports and workplace grievances of all kinds, from racism to sexual harassment. The concept of having a separate entity to collect these kinds of claims “appealed greatly” to Hinton, he said.
“Even if the amazing engineers at Google could create something, the mere fact that it’s our own — that it’s internal — creates issues with folks in terms of raising concerns,” he said. “There’s just this perception that organizations, if they control these applications, can figure out one way or another to violate the confidentiality,” he said.
However, he said he’s also trying to appeal to compliance organizations to sign on to the product.
“I also want to try and use my background to help folks in the compliance space better understand that handling these types of concerns — harassment, discrimination types of concerns — is critical to making sure that folks, when they are confronted with them, step up and report other types of concerns that traditionally fall into compliance space,” he said, like bribery and fraud.
Hinton said the name #NotMe is a play on #MeToo, a movement that started in 2018, where women shared their stories of being sexually harassed and assaulted following a number of high-profile cases against Silicon Valley elites and Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. The company is led by employment lawyer Ariel Weindling, who claims to have more than a decade of experience representing both organizations and victims of misconduct.
Hinton thinks the Not Me app could work at Google, but only as one part of a broader solution, since the app’s success theoretically hinges on human resources departments doing their job correctly. But he also thinks the company generally did a “responsible” job of responding to complaints.
“Obviously, I was part of those responses, so I’m perhaps a little bit biased,” Hinton said the company’s handling of misconduct. “There are clearly a number of situations that have gotten a lot of attention through the press and certainly conduct that was sub-optimal, but ultimately the company did respond in responsible ways. Like a lot of other organizations, we learn as we go and we’re always trying to improve.”
Hinton also said the company was in the process of making changes to improve its compliance programs such as rethinking how people raise concerns or issues of misconduct at Google and who handles those. He declined to specify further, deferring to the company, which did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
He’s also pondering the Not Me app’s use for police brutality, which has gained new attention since the widespread protests over the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in Minneapolis earlier this year.
“I looked at the focus currently being put on police forces and law enforcement and way for folks to comfortably raise concerns regarding the activities in those areas. And, I’m wondering if #NotMe can be part of the solution there.”
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