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Microsoft opens an investigation into harassment sought by investors

SEATTLE – Microsoft said on Thursday it was opening an investigation into its response to workplace sexual harassment and gender discrimination, including its handling of allegations against co-founder Bill Gates.

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

“We are committed to not only reviewing reports but also learning from them so we can continue to improve the employee experience,” Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella said in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal reported last year that Microsoft’s board hired a law firm in 2019 to review Gates after a Microsoft engineer alleges in a letter that she had sex with him. Gates for several years. Gates steps down from the board in 2020.

Active investor proposals to change company policy are rarely successful. Microsoft has urged shareholders to reject the proposal, and urged the company to investigate its harassment policies and publish a public report on them.

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 pretty impressed with how Microsoft has delivered on their commitment since the annual meeting,” said Natasha Lamb, co-founder and managing partner of the socially-minded investment firm.

She said she had spoken to Microsoft about how the investigation would proceed. The board of directors authorized the firm to hire the law firm Arent Fox to conduct the review.

“Our concern is not just with what happened to Microsoft in the past but whether that behavior is addressed and mitigated in the future,” she said in an interview on Thursday. . “At the end of the day, from an investor perspective, this is about how the company treats its employees and whether it can attract and retain talent.”

The Redmond, Washington-based company says its public reporting will include an assessment of the effectiveness of its anti-harassment and discrimination policies. It will also summarize the results of investigations into allegations of harassment against board members and senior leadership, including the handling of the 2019 investigation into Gates, and will outline take steps to hold leaders accountable.

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