Microsoft’s Senior Brass warned Bill Gates years ago to stop sending emails to a female employee. Microsoft board was notified by the company’s top lawyer and HR head that they had informed the millionaire co-founder about his improper email exchanges with women employees.
This isn’t the first time that a Microsoft Corp. engineer has complained about Bill Gates’ improper conduct with female colleagues, as shown by the letter he sent before his departure from the board in 2019.
According to individuals familiar with the situation, Microsoft officials found emails between Bill Gates and a mid-level female employee more than a decade ago, while Gates was still chairman of the board and employed by Microsoft.
The individuals claimed that Mr. Gates, who was married at the time, was flirty and made sexual advances toward the female employee in the texts.
There were two senior Microsoft officials who met with Mr. Gates and informed him that the conduct was improper and needed to stop: General Counsel Brad Smith and Chief People Officer Lisa Brummel, it has been reported.
The individuals claimed that Mr. Gates did not dispute the conversations, but in retrospect, he told the executives it was a bad idea and indicated he would stop.
Some board members were informed by Microsoft’s executives, according to the sources, and a board committee addressed the issue. They said that the board came to this conclusion since there had been no physical contact and no need for further action.
Microsoft’s Frank Shaw, a spokesman, said the firm was made aware of the 2007 emails in 2008, just before Mr. Gates resigned as a full-time employee. Mr. Gates suggested seeing the female employee off-site and off-campus in the emails, according to Mr. Shaw.
Even though they were “flirtatious,” they weren’t blatantly sexual, according to him. In Mr. Shaw’s words, the employee never reported the event, which had never been reported before.
In response, Gates spokesperson Bridgit Arnold said: “These allegations are untrue, repeated rumors from individuals who do not directly know, and in some instances have serious conflicts of interest.”
As one of the wealthiest individuals on the planet, Mr. Gates was CEO of Microsoft from 2000 to 2008, a full-time employee, and chairman until 2014. He was on the Microsoft board for almost four decades until he stepped down in March of this year.
The next year, Bill and Melinda Gates, who had been married for 27 years, filed for divorce. In August, the divorce was officially completed. One of the world’s biggest philanthropies, Bill & Melinda Gates, is still led by the couple.
It was reported in May by The Wall Street Journal that after Mr. Gates quit the Microsoft board, the board committee engaged a legal firm to look into an engineer’s letter from 2019 claiming a previous sexual connection with him.
Some individuals with knowledge of the situation claim that this lady was not the one Mr. Gates had been told not to pursue previously. Although the connection began in 2002, Mr. Shaw claims that Microsoft was first made aware of it in 2019.
Since then, the Journal has uncovered new information about how the 2019 inquiry was handled by the Microsoft board of directors. According to individuals familiar with the situation, Steve Smith, currently, Microsoft’s president and vice-chair, and CEO Satya Nadella were among the officials who saw the 2019 letter.
There were worries about sharing information about the inquiry with Microsoft’s board, according to individuals familiar with the issue, including board chair John W. Thompson. Thompson urged committee members not to share information about the investigation with Microsoft, they said.
According to the individuals, board members who received the letter were required to submit it to Microsoft’s general counsel.
Legal counsel for boards stated that in most cases when a board chooses whether or not to start an inquiry, the whole board votes to go ahead for approval and the entire board is aware of a current investigation.
Board permission is required for any inquiry that calls for consulting with outside counsel, according to David Berger, partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati and an expert in corporate governance.
According to Microsoft’s Mr. Shaw, the nominating and governance committee was given the power to engage outside attorneys under the board’s governance rules.
According to him, “despite the fact that governance best practices are always changing,” the Board Chair and the Committee chose to exercise their authority and go ahead with a preliminary assessment, knowing that the issue may eventually be brought before the entire Board.
The Journal previously reported that Mr. Gates resigned from his board position before an inquiry was complete because several directors felt he should stand down.
According to a spokesperson for Mr. Gates, he had an affair almost two decades ago that ended peacefully and the board’s investigation had no bearing on his decision to resign. Microsoft said that the board committee investigated the issue thoroughly and offered assistance to the employee who lodged it.
Several Microsoft board and executive members, both current and past, said they felt the complaints regarding Mr. Gates’ conduct with female workers had been addressed appropriately. The #MeToo movement, according to them, has altered attitudes and procedures in recent years.
The former Microsoft director Maria Klawe, who said she was unaware of any concerns regarding Mr. Gates and female workers, said he acted as if the rules didn’t apply to him at times in a more general sense of the word
There was a sense that he believed his position afforded him special privileges that others did not have,” said Ms. Klawe, president of the math and science-focused Harvey Mudd College, in response to Mr. Trump’s comments.
Mr. Shaw remained silent in the wake of Ms. Klawe’s comments. Rather of commenting on the situation directly, Mr. Gates’ spokesperson, Ms. Arnold, issued a written statement instead.
According to a source familiar with the situation, a senior Microsoft official informed at least one board member about Bill Gates’ 1992 romance with a female Microsoft executive years before the 2019 letter and the 2007 emails. According to this individual, the board as a whole was unaware of the situation. This individual claimed that the lady in question was not Ms. French Gates.
When Ms. French Gates first met Mr. Gates in 1987, she worked at Microsoft. Ms. French Gates left Microsoft in 1996, the same year she and Mr. Gates had their first of three children. They were married in 1994.
During that same period, Mr. Gates had a romantic connection with a female Microsoft employee, but Microsoft isn’t aware of any reports about it, according to Mr. Shaw. Ms. Arnold was certain that her written statement would be the end of her remarks.
Nadella replaced Thompson as Microsoft board chair in June and Mr. Gates is still a technical advisor to Mr. Nadella. At the time, a Microsoft spokesperson claimed the chairman change had nothing to do with Mr. Gates’ departure from the board.