March 27, 2016 – Korn/Ferry International, the world’s biggest executive-search firm, has quietly settled a bitter and salacious legal feud over its firing of a high-level executive.
In a lawsuit brought last year, Robert A. Damon, Korn/Ferry’s former executive chairman of the Americas, alleged the firm dismissed him for complaints he made to board members about Chief ExecutiveGary Burnison’s treatment of several female colleagues. He also said he lost more than $1.7 million in deferred compensation due to his termination for cause. The suit was filed in California Superior Court in Los Angeles.
A subsequent court filing by Korn/Ferry stated it fired Mr. Damon for allegedly using his company email address “to solicit and arrange for meetings with at least 20 different call girls and escorts.’’ The firm also charged that Mr. Damon used his company email “to receive and distribute photographs of nude and seminude women,’’ its filing continued.
Mr. Damon’s suit has been settled, with relevant court documents filed last week, said William Waldo, a lawyer for Mr. Damon. Mr. Waldo declined to discuss terms of the settlement.
Neither Mr. Damon, who turned 68 last May, nor Korn/Ferry returned calls for comment.
Korn/Ferry has held the top spot in the global and U.S. search industry for more than a decade, according to Hunt Scanlon Media Inc., a market-research firm that tracks executive recruiters. Korn/Ferry has helped place leaders at Office Depot Inc., Target Corp., Major League Baseball and elsewhere.
Mr. Damon’s suit claimed Mr. Burnison, who has been CEO since 2007, engaged in a pattern of abuse and discrimination toward Korn/Ferry’s female employees starting around 2010. The suit alleged that after one senior Korn/Ferry woman complained about such conduct to a party who wasn’t named in the suit, Mr. Burnison threatened her with a golf club.
The Los Angeles-based company last year denied the claims in Mr. Damon’s litigation and said they were without merit.
The Wall Street Journal, by Joann S. Lublin