Microsoft announced on Thursday it has hired a law firm to review how the company
handled sexual harassment allegations against some of its top executives – including
founder Bill Gates – and is expected to release its findings in the spring.
The review will be conducted by Washington, D.C.-based Arent Fox LLP, which the
board of directors selected because it has experience in dealing with sexual
harassment allegations and has not conducted much work with the company in the
After the law firm’s findings go public, Microsoft is set to release a report detailing its
sexual harassment investigations and what, if any, actions were taken as a result.
The company has been swamped with sexual harassment allegations against Gates
going back to 2000.
He stepped down from the company amid an investigation into one of his
relationships with a former employee in 2020, and on May 3, 2021, he announced his
divorce to his longtime wife, Melinda French Gates.
A few weeks later, The New York Times published an expose detailing how Gates
sexually harassed several of his employees and remained a loyal friend to pedophile
Jeffrey Epstein three years after he was convicted of soliciting prostitution from a
Our culture remains our number one priority and the entire board appreciates the
critical importance of a safe and inclusive environment for all Microsoft employees,’
Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella said in a statement.
‘We’re committed not just to reviewing the report but learning from the assessment
so we can continue to improve the experiences of our employees,’ she continued.
‘I embrace this comprehensive review as an opportunity to continue to get better.’
The move to hire an independent firm to review the company’s investigations comes
after activist shareholders demanded greater disclosure of the company’s handling of
sexual harassment issues.
A resolution seeking greater transparency passed in November with support from
almost 78 percent of the shareholders in November, The New York Times reported
As part of the review, Arent Fox is expected to submit its findings to Microsoft senior
management and board members with recommendations on how to improve the
culture at the company, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The company would then share a summary of the findings with the public in the
spring, which would lead to a public release of Microsoft’s transparency report
detailing effectiveness of the company’s workplace policies related to sexual
harassment and gender discrimination.
The report will include data on the number of sexual harassment cases Microsoft has
investigated, and what the results of those investigations were, and is expected to
summarize the results of investigations into Gates and other senior leaders.
In a statement, Microsoft executives said the report ‘will assess the steps that have
been taken to hold employees, including executives, accountable for sexual
harassment or gender discrimination.’
The firm will also compare Microsoft’s sexual harassment and gender discrimination
policies against the best practices that have been adopted by other companies.
Founder Bill Gates has been accused of soliciting at least two employees while he was
running the tech giant, according to The Times.
In at least one instance, in 2007, it reports that Gates sat through a presentation by a
Microsoft employee then promptly emailed her asking for a date. He reportedly
wrote: ‘If this makes you uncomfortable, pretend it never happened.’
Microsoft executives then reportedly warned Gates not to do things like that.
But at a cocktail party on a work trip years later, Gates allegedly asked a woman who
worked for him to dinner.
Then in 2019, Microsoft’s board received a letter from an engineer claiming to have
had a relationship with Gates in 2000 that lasted for several years.
Microsoft’s board investigated the incident and wanted Gates to resign from the
board, Business Insider reported, and he stepped down one year later.
A spokeswoman for the billionaire said his decision to step down ‘was in no way
related to this matter. In fact, he had expressed an interest in spending more time on
his philanthropy starting several years earlier.’
Gates also met his ex-wife, Melinda French Gates, when she joined the company as a
product manager straight out of college. He asked her out one day in the company
parking lot, Insider reports.