In response to ousted Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan’s request last week to be released from the arbitration agreement she signed when she took the job, the Academy has agreed to have the dispute heard publicly — however, that agreement is not as liberating as it at first sounds. Dugan said “The Academy intentionally brought this dispute to the public’s attention, and I am asking you to agree to let the public and music industry access the legal proceedings to come in this case,” adding, “I have nothing to hide. The public and the music industry have the right to know what is going on behind closed doors at the Academy.” The offered agreement would free the Academy from its confidentiality agreement as well.
But arbitration would prevent the dispute from coming before a jury, and Dugan attorney Doug Wigdor apparently spurned the offer in a statement to Variety. “The Recording Academy’s efforts at portraying arbitration as a fair process for employees is disingenuous as everyone knows arbitration unfairly favors, protects, and insulates employers from their unlawful actions. It is telling that the Recording Academy is unwilling to allow a jury of Ms. Dugan’s peers decide this matter.” Reps for the Academy declined Variety‘s request for comment, but noted that an arbitrator would have to be agreed upon by both sides.
The offer, in the form of a letter from interim Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. obtained by Variety, reads in part: “Arbitration has been uniformly recognized by courts and commentators alike as an entirely fair process for achieving justice, while usually being far less costly than full-blown civil litigation,” the offer reads. “The Recording Academy has absolutely nothing to hide and, in fact, welcomes the opportunity to tell its story so that the entire music community and the world can hear the truth – and nothing but the truth – about what you did to this proud institution during your brief tenure as President/CEO. In short, we welcome a full public airing of your allegations against the Academy as well as the Academy’s many claims and defenses against you. Therefore, the Academy hereby agrees to waive the confidentiality provision contained in the arbitration clause of the Employment Agreement (Section 15(e)) and asks that you confirm in writing your reciprocal waiver.”
Dugan was placed on administrative leave after just five months on the job on Jan. 16 after a senior female executive, who multiple sources say is her former assistant Claudine Little, accused her of unspecified “misconduct.” Dugan hit back five days later with a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which was loaded with strong allegations, including sexual harassment, “egregious conflicts of interest, improper self-dealing by Board members and voting irregularities,” among other claims.
“To the extent that the Acdemy is successful in forcing me to arbitrate my claims, it will simultaneously be denying the music industry and the public at large information concerning the issues raised in my EEOC Charge, including, among other things, discrimination, wasteful spending, sexual harassment, self-dealing, conflicts of interest and irregularities in the Grammys voting process,” Dugan continues in the letter.
She also says the Academy’s investigation into the claims detailed in her complaint is “completely biased” because the investigator retained by the organization was “handpicked” by Proskauer Rose, LLP — which she described in the complaint as “one of the law firms that is ‘in bed’ with the Academy.”