Kim Harris, evp and general counsel of NBCUniversal has released findings of an internal investigation into sexual harassment claims made by four women against Matt Lauer going back 18 years. Lauer’s contract was terminated Nov. 28, 6 days after the first accuser sent an email to NBC News HR.
Harris led the investigation, and hired two outside law firms to assist. 68 people, both past and present staffers, were interviewed. None of them have been identified in the report. Investigators also went through Lauer’s email accounts and text messages from his work phone. They also scanned emails of NBC News and Today show leadership, “to determine whether there were any prior complaints about Lauer. None were found,” Harris says, adding:
We found no evidence indicating that any NBC News or Today Show leadership, News HR or others in positions of authority in the News Division received any complaints about Lauer’s workplace behavior prior to November 27, 2017. All four women who came forward confirmed that they did not tell their direct manager or anyone else in a position of authority about their sexual encounters with Lauer. Current and former members of NBC News and Today Show leadership, as well as News HR, stated that they had never received a complaint about inappropriate workplace behavior by Lauer, and we did not find any contrary evidence.
“Most witnesses interviewed stated that they had heard or read rumors about Lauer’s personal life, including tabloid stories about the troubled state of his marriage and the possibility of extramarital affairs, but those witnesses believed, with limited exceptions, that the rumored extramarital affairs were with women outside of the Company,” Harris writes.
And there’s the issue of “the button.”
The investigation team also inquired about the nature of the “button” in Lauer’s office that was alleged to have locked the door. According to the NBCUniversal facilities team, the button is a commonly available feature in executive offices in multiple NBCUniversal facilities to provide an efficient way to close the door without getting up from the desk. The button releases a magnet that holds the door open. It does not lock the door from the inside.
The investigation found that “a small number of those interviewed” had concerns “about rumored extramarital affairs among employees,” but finding that “the investigation team does not believe that there is a widespread or systemic pattern of behavior that violates Company policy.”
As for next steps:
The investigation team strongly recommends that the News Division take immediate, concrete steps to create a lasting culture that encourages a respectful work environment free of inappropriate sexual or other conduct and prompt reporting of concerns without fear of retaliation, and demonstrates that concerns raised will be addressed promptly, appropriately and effectively.
Here’s Harris’ report, which has been sent to NBCU CEO Steve Burke. NBC News chairman Andy Lack is expected to announce the news division’s next steps later today.