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Universal Marketing Department Shake Up as Inappropriate Conduct Allegations Hit

There has been a major shakeup at Universal’s marketing department in the wake of allegations of inappropriate conduct involving two of its top executives. Following an investigation, Seth Byers, EVP of creative strategy and research, has been fired and Josh Goldstine, president of marketing, has been placed on administrative leave. It is unclear if Goldstine will return to his post.

In a memo to staff on Thursday, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Jeff Shell and chairman of Universal Pictures Donna Langley said the allegations they received against the men were “credible and indicative of an unacceptable climate.” Neither Shell nor Langley detailed what the allegations against Byers and Goldstine entailed, however.

The charges surface at an inflection point for the movie industry and are indicative of an emerging “zero tolerance” policy at major studios when it comes to abusive conduct. The shift has been a longtime coming, but the changes have been dramatic and far-reaching. In October, dozens of women stepped forward to accuse indie mogul Harvey Weinstein of abuse and harassment. Since those reports hit a number of high-profile media and entertainment figures have been accused of sexual harassment — Dustin Hoffman, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner, and Louis C.K. are among those who have been the subject of allegations. Many of the incidents that were described dated back decades, but many accusers said they remained silent because they worried about career repercussions.

Universal said it was going to mandate additional workplace training for members of the motion picture group in light of the marketing department allegations.

“Our highest priority is to provide a working environment where every employee feels heard, seen and safe,” Langley and Shell wrote. “We commend the people who have had the courage to come forward. We have no tolerance for harassment or other disrespectful behavior, and we will be taking any necessary steps to ensure that actions that violate our core values are dealt with swiftly and decisively.”

Byers joined Universal in 2013 from Sony Pictures, where he served as senior vice president of worldwide research. He worked alongside Goldstine at Sony. Goldstine came over to Universal in 2011 to be its president of domestic marketing. He was promoted to worldwide marketing president in 2014. Prior to the move, Goldstine spent two decades at Sony.

In 2001, Goldstine was suspended by Sony after it emerged that he had helped create a fictional film critics whose euphoric reviews were excerpted on posters that were used to promote such films as “The Animal” and “Hollow Man.”

Here’s the full text of the staff-wide memo:

Late last week, we received allegations of inappropriate conduct in the Universal Pictures Marketing Department. The information provided was detailed, and we believe both credible and indicative of an unacceptable climate. Effective immediately, Seth Byers, Executive Vice President, Creative Strategy and Research, will no longer be with the company.

Josh Goldstine, President of Marketing, has been placed on administrative leave while we conduct a thorough investigation. These steps are necessary as part of a broader evaluation of the environment in our division.

Our highest priority is to provide a working environment where every employee feels heard, seen and safe. We commend the people who have had the courage to come forward. We have no tolerance for harassment or other disrespectful behavior, and we will be taking any necessary steps to ensure that actions that violate our core values are dealt with swiftly and decisively.

We will be doing a number of things to address this immediately, including a full review in the marketing department to ensure every employee has the opportunity to voice concerns, raise any issues and provide feedback about the working environment, and we are prepared to take whatever additional action is needed.

We will also be launching mandatory in-person respect-in-the-workplace training for all employees in the motion picture group to supplement existing training. This new training will be held in small groups working together to better understand how we all can contribute to a culture where we treat each other appropriately.

In the meantime, we want to hear from you about any concerns you may have. You may come directly to either of us, your manager or our HR team. Or, if you would be more comfortable, the company provides other tools outside the organization that allow you to report anonymously, including the Comcast Listens website at www.ComcastListens.com or tel:(877) 405-4783, and the NBCU Ombudsman at integrity@nbcuni.com.

We are committed to you, the employees who drive this company and show passion and dedication in everything you do. We are a resilient, strong organization who sticks together in good times and bad.  This is a time for us to recognize that we must foster greater respect and transparency, and we will do that together.

We, along with our HR team, will be available throughout the entire day to answer your questions or address any concerns you may have.

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