In the wake of reports of widespread sexual harassment at Sony Music Australia, Universal Music has become the second major label in the country to launch an investigation into inappropriate behavior at its offices, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
The allegations surfaced in posts on an Instagram account called Beneath the Glass ceiling, claiming multiple cases of bullying, harassment, racism, homophobia, discrimination, as well as more serious allegations of sexual assault. A rep for the company declined Variety’s request for comment, although George Ash, president of Universal Music Australia, addressed it in a July 30 email to the company’s staff cited by the Herald, and also spoke with the paper about it. He said the company was aware of the allegations and admitted to making an inappropriate comment during a company Zoom call.
“As the leader of this company I take full responsibility for creating a respectful workplace culture for everyone,” Ash wrote.
“With respect to my own behaviour, it is particularly painful to realise now that what I intended as jokes were unacceptable comments that made some of you uncomfortable.”
Last week Universal enlisted the law firm Seyfarth Shaw to conduct an investigation into its workplace culture, according to the Herald. Staff were informed of the investigation at a meeting last week and encouraged to raise any concerns.
Sony Music is already conducting an investigation into the culture at its Sydney office; the company’s longtime head, Denis Handlin, was fired in June after 50 years at the company, and two other executives have resigned.
Ash told the Herald, “My initial response was ‘I don’t know whether the allegations are true or not’ but it made me think we haven’t done enough and we need to do more in our company. I need to step up and take responsibility.”
He said he was unaware himself of many of the allegations, but took responsibility for them regardless. “In some ways I feel like I have let people down,” he said. “It’s not the company or the culture I want to work in . . . if people are feeling like that then I need to address things.”
“Before these [issues] were raised I thought we were doing an amazing job,” he continued, “[but] with these things being raised I need to make sure I respond to them. If there is any positive to come of this, it creates that catalyst for us to speak openly about things and hopefully address things to create a workplace culture that people can be proud of.”
He also owned up to making an off-color joke during a company Zoom call. “I had a complaint recently raised against myself around a joke I made in a Zoom meeting. It was insensitive, and that went through the appropriate processes and I apologised to everyone in the company who was impacted by it.”
The news comes just weeks before UMG’s parent company, France-based Vivendi, is scheduled to list take it public on the Netherlands stock exchange in September.