SAN FRANCISCO — Andy Rubin, a former Google senior vice president who invented the Android operating system, departed the company after having an “inappropriate relationship” with a subordinate and kept payments by his previous employer secret from his wife for several years, according to documents made public by a California superior court.
On Tuesday, San Mateo Superior Court Judge Susan Greenberg unsealed a civil complaint brought by Rubin’s estranged wife, Rie Hirabaru Rubin. The complaint revealed how Google and its parent company Alphabet compensated the high-powered former executive in secret after he left the company following a sexual misconduct allegation. News of the former executive’s $90 million exit package sparked internal anger at Alphabet and widespread condemnation, leading to employee demonstrations, shareholder lawsuits, and revisions to policies on how the company handles sexual misconduct complaints.
The lawsuit, which was filed last October but was temporarily sealed by the court, alleges that Andy Rubin and his former lawyer conspired to defraud Rie Rubin by convincing her to sign a prenuptial agreement that later barred her from sharing any part of her husband’s financial gains. Rie Rubin, who is also seeking a divorce in a separate family court, is suing to invalidate that prenuptial agreement and to potentially lay claim to a portion of Andy Rubin’s net worth, which court documents estimate to be around $350 million.
While the lawsuit never explicitly states that Google paid $90 million as part of an exit package following an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct in 2014, it does state that “Rubin concealed his income” and that his wife “even now does not understand the full scope of his finances.” Rie Rubin also alleged that her husband opened a separate bank account a few months before he left Google in October 2014 to receive his earnings and make “hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to other women.”
In her ruling on Tuesday, Greenberg unsealed the documents, allowing the case to proceed, but asked that the plaintiff submit an amended complaint that removes many of the salacious charges around Andy Rubin’s alleged payments to other women for relationships.
“We’re encouraged because the court’s tentative order permits the case to go forward,” said Brian Danitz, a lawyer for Rie Rubin. “Still, we’re disappointed the allegations regarding Andy Rubin’s relationships in exchange for payment has been stricken from the complaint.”
Ellen Stross, one of Andy Rubin’s attorneys, called the suit a “garden-variety family law dispute involving a wife who regrets her decision to execute a prenuptial agreement.” She added that the case should be litigated entirely in a family law court, where there is a concurrent divorce case. A spokesperson for Google did not immediately return a request for comment.
The original complaint delves into the former Google executive’s alleged “affairs with multiple women.” Some of those affairs, the suit states, included “‘ownership’ relationships with other women, whereby Rubin would pay for their expenses in exchange for offering them to other men.” The complaint includes two messages from Andy Rubin’s email account, which his wife claims to have viewed, detailing those relationships.
“One of these women … was complicit with Rubin in running what appeared to be a sex ring,” the complaint reads, alleging that he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for sexual favors and relationships with other women. The prenuptial agreement, the suit continues, protected Rubin from considering the financial consequences of a divorce as he engaged in extramarital relationships.
The build-up to Tuesday’s decision was filled with courtroom squabbles over the public’s right to see the complaint and the defense’s argument that publishing it was a violation of its client’s privacy. Andy Rubin’s lawyers also previously moved to successfully quash efforts to depose women who had admitted affairs with their client, despite the plaintiff’s protestations.
While Google is not named as a defendant in the complaint, the lawsuit lists possible “Doe Defendants,” who may have helped Rubin allegedly defraud his wife, and notes that the plaintiff could update her suit once names and capacities have been ascertained. The suit names Rubin; his former lawyer Stephen Peters; and Peters’ law firm, Peters, Peters & Ellingson; as defendants.
Peters, the lawsuit says, served as Rubin’s lawyer for a previous divorce settlement and was recommended to Rie Rubin by her husband to represent her in the signing of their 2009 prenuptial agreement. She claims she was not aware of her husband’s previous working relationship with Peters, who she alleges ultimately did not provide independent counsel that was in her best interest.
The invalidation of the prenuptial agreement would be a major step in leading Rie Rubin to obtain part of her husband’s fortune, which she says increased from $10.3 million to $350 million during the course of their nine-year marriage.
A significant portion of that increase came from Rubin’s 2014 exit package, after he was accused by an employee of coercing her into oral sex in a hotel room in 2013. Google’s payments to Rubin reportedly ended late last year.
In response to the story, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Eileen Naughton, vice president of people operations, wrote an email to employees, noting how the company would be “taking an increasingly hard line on inappropriate conduct by people in positions of authority.”
“In the last two years, 48 people have been terminated for sexual harassment, including 13 who were senior managers and above,” they wrote in October. “None of these individuals received an exit package."