An internal investigation at NBCUniversal found "no evidence" that company management knew of inappropriate workplace behavior by former star Today host Matt Lauer until late November, according to a report released Wednesday.
The investigation, led by NBCU general counsel Kim Harris, "found credible" allegations from four complainants against Lauer. But investigators, who interviewed about 70 people for the report, also found credible statements from members of leadership at Today and NBC News that they did not know about his behavior.
NBC has faced criticism that conducting the review itself is a conflict of interest, but the company has said it consulted with outside law firms.
"There are aspects of the NBC report with which I clearly disagree," Lauer said in a statement.
According to the report, within two weeks of Lauer's termination following one complainant coming forward, the company received information from three additional women "who each alleged that Lauer had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace with them in 2000, 2001, and 2007, respectively."
The four women "confirmed that they did not tell their direct manager or anyone else in a position of authority about their sexual encounters with Lauer," according to the report. But years prior to her sexual encounter with Lauer, one of the women "contemporaneously told that manager about an inappropriate interaction with Lauer where he placed his hand on her thigh and made a sexually suggestive comment." That complainant said her manager inquired about her well-being and they both agreed she would not be assigned to travel with Lauer for a time, according to the report.
Lauer has acknowledged he acted inappropriately but has denied allegations of "coercive, aggressive, or abusive actions."
The investigation comes during a trying time for NBC News, which has been scrambling in the wake of a series of scandals, including decades-old allegations of unwanted sexual advances against former anchor Tom Brokaw (which he has denied).
Investigators for the Lauer probe asked witnesses whether they had concerns about inappropriate behavior by other employees at the company. "Most of the concerns already had been reported, investigated and addressed through disciplinary action where warranted," according to the report. "The remainder that were not previously known involved allegations of conduct less egregious than that pertaining to Lauer, and they are being investigated and addressed in a manner consistent with company policies and procedures."
The report concluded that "the investigation team does not believe that there is a widespread or systemic pattern of behavior that violates company policy or a culture of harassment in the news division."
In an email to employees, NBC News Chair Andy Lack wrote, "Like many of you, I am immensely proud of NBC News, its history, and the work we do. But – stepping back from the investigation – that history also includes a time when people were not comfortable coming forward to voice complaints about repugnant behavior. That is not acceptable." Lack said that the company has "begun to turn the page to establish a safer and more respectful environment. That requires strong, specific steps in a sustained manner to transform the culture."
Rumors have swirled for years in media circles and the tabloid press about Lauer's personal life, and his swift ouster last year has raised questions about who at NBC knew what — and when.
(NBCUniversal is an investor in BuzzFeed.)
The report also follows a recent Washington Post investigation that raised questions about a culture of sexual harassment at NBC News. Former Today host Ann Curry told the Post that she had told two members of NBC's management team after a female employee had told her she was "sexually harassed physically" by Lauer. “I told management they had a problem and they needed to keep an eye on him and how he deals with women,” Curry told the Post.
According to the internal report, Curry confirmed that she did not tell management that she had received a "specific complaint."
"Curry declined to share with the investigation team the identity of anyone in management with whom she spoke at the time or the identity of the woman who came to her with a complaint about Lauer," according to the report. "The members of NBC News and Today Show leadership at the time with whom we spoke denied having any such conversation with Curry."
Curry, however, told the New York Times that she has "not participated in any formal investigation by NBC on sexual harassment." The Times reported that Curry received a call from NBC shortly before the Washington Post story published, and NBC told the Times that it stood by how the report characterizes Curry's comments to NBC's lawyer.