An investigation into NBC News in the wake of former Today anchor Matt Lauer’s termination for inappropriate sexual behavior has exonerated the news division of wrongdoing.
A team of lawyers and HR professionals, assembled by Kim Harris, NBCUniversal general counsel, looked into whether NBC News management knew of Lauer’s behavior and failed to act.
“The ultimate goal of this investigation was to understand whether current news division leadership addresses inappropriate workplace behavior promptly and appropriately,” said a report from NBC. The team interviewed 68 individuals it thought might have relevant information.
On Nov. 22, a woman emailed the news division’s HR department saying she had a serious concern. In an interview with HR and an NBCU lawyer Nov. 27, she said Lauer had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with her on several occasions in 2014.
A day later, Lauer was interviewed by HR and legal representatives. He was fired that day.
Within two weeks, three more women came forward with workplace charges against Lauer, occurring in 2000, 2001 and 2007.
The report said NBC management was not made aware of its star anchor’s transgressions before the woman was interviewed by HR and an NBCU lawyer. “We found no evidence indicated 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,” it said.
The four women who came forward, the report said, did not report Lauer's misdeeds to their managers.
Last month, allegations against Tom Brokaw, former anchor of NBC Nightly News, surfaced. Brokaw denied the allegations.
NBC's investigation team also conducted a “culture assessment” at the company, in which 400 employees were invited to participate, and 262 ultimately did. Staffers were asked if they felt they work in a respectful environment, what obstacles they see in reporting harassment, and what suggestions they have for making NBC a better place to work.
A “significant majority” were comfortable going to HR with a concern about inappropriate workplace behavior. Yet a “substantial number” of them had uncertainty about whether their concerns would be promptly and thoroughly investigated or that appropriate action would be taken.
The report said, “The investigation team does not believe that there is a current widespread or systemic pattern of behavior that violates company policy or a current culture of harassment in the news division.”