Amit Singhal has left his job at Uber as its SVP of engineering because he did not disclose to the car-hailing company that he left Google a year earlier after top executives there informed him of an allegation of sexual harassment from an employee that an internal investigation had found “credible.”
Singhal was asked to resign by Uber CEO Travis Kalanick this morning.
Uber execs found out about the situation after Recode informed them of the chain of events between Singhal and the search giant this week.
Sources at Uber said that the company did extensive background checks of Singhal and that it did not uncover any hint of the circumstances of his departure from Google. Singhal disputed the allegation to Google execs at the time.
In a statement to me, Singhal denied the allegation again, although he did acknowledge the dispute with Google.
“Harassment is unacceptable in any setting. I certainly want everyone to know that I do not condone and have not committed such behavior,” he wrote to me in an email. “In my 20-year career, I’ve never been accused of anything like this before and the decision to leave Google was my own.”
This revelation comes at a dicey time for Uber, as it has been under scrutiny of late, due to an explosive blog post by a former female engineer who alleged numerous incidents of sexism, sexual harassment and also painted a picture of a very dysfunctional HR department and management structure.
To be clear, Singhal’s dispute with Google has nothing to do with that situation or the recent lawsuit that Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has waged against Uber’s Otto division.
But having Singhal at the head of an organization under siege over sexual harassment issues when he was not candid with Uber over his departure from Google was considered untenable.
Indeed. According to multiple sources and internal notes read to me, after discussing the claims of an alleged encounter between Singhal and a female employee first with former Google HR head Laszlo Bock and also Google CEO Sundar Pichai in late 2015, he denied those claims at the time. He also apparently stated a number of times that there were two sides to every story.
But, after the Christmas holidays, he then decided to resign himself after a 15-year career there.
Sources said that Google was prepared to fire Singhal over the allegations after looking into the incident, but that it did not have to do so after he resigned.
Sources said the female employee who filed the formal complaint against Singhal did not work for him directly, but worked closely with the search team. She also did not want to go public with the charges, which is apparently why Google decided to allow Singhal to leave quietly.
He was also a well-regarded executive there, who was well liked by many I have spoken to at Google. He rose to a top job as SVP of search and has had a distinguished career as a technologist in Silicon Valley. (You can hear an interview I did with him onstage at the Code Mobile conference in late 2015 here.)
But his sudden departure from Google in early 2016 came soon after he had reorganized his huge and critical division, a move that definitely set off alarm bells with me and many others both inside and outside of Google.
You could not tell that there were any problems, though, from the outward behavior of both sides. When Singhal left, said sources, Google settled major outstanding grants he had, and his own goodbye letter read more like a retirement missive. More to the point, it gave no hint of acrimony between himself and his longtime employer.
“As I entered the fifteenth year of working at Google, I’ve been asking myself the question, ‘What would you want to do for the next fifteen?’ The answer has overwhelmingly been: Give back to others. It has always been a priority for me to give back to people who are less fortunate, and make time for my family amidst competing work constraints — but on both fronts, I simply want to give and do more,” he wrote. “Now is a good time to make this important life change.”
But within a year, rather than do good, Singhal had gotten a top job at Uber.
Google declined to comment on the circumstances of Singhal’s departure. Uber also declined to comment beyond its confirmation of Singhal’s departure and about the details of his hiring.