Vice Media receives allegations of old-school sexual harassment

A brash maverick in addition to consummate salesman, Mr. Smith, 48, transformed Vice via a free magazine in Montreal into a global company with roughly 3,000 employees, a television network, a digital footprint, a film-production company as well as a daily news show in addition to documentary program on HBO.

Along the way Mr. Smith regularly mocked traditional media companies as stodgy in addition to uncreative. although in recent years he set about courting conglomerates like the Walt Disney Company in addition to 21st Century Fox, which were eager to profit on Vice’s cachet with millennial audiences. The latest round of investment gave the company a valuation of more than $5.7 billion.

Behind in which ascent, however, is usually a more disturbing aspect of Vice’s operations. People involved with Vice during its early days described a punk-rock, male-dominated atmosphere in which attempts to shock sometimes crossed a line.

In a 2012 interview with the Financial Times, Mr. Smith recalled his earlier days with Vice. “I would certainly be at the party in addition to would certainly just want to get wasted, take coke in addition to have sex with girls inside the bathroom,” he said.

In 2003 Vice reached a $25,000 settlement with the freelance writer Jessica Hopper. The deal involved defamation claims tied to an interview she did with the rapper Murs in which was published inside the February 2003 issue of the magazine, according to a copy of the agreement viewed by The Times. During the interview, Murs asked Ms. Hopper if he could have sex with her. She said no in addition to included in which answer in her article.

although before the article was published, the magazine changed her response to yes in addition to printed This kind of under the headline, “I Got Laid although Murs Didn’t.”

Mortified, Ms. Hopper hired lawyers. The two sides struck a settlement in which, in addition to a payout, required Vice to print a retraction in addition to a formal apology.

In 2003, Vice ran an interview with the rapper Murs conducted by a freelance writer, Jessica Hopper. During the interview, Murs had asked Ms. Hopper if he could have sex with her. She said no in addition to included in which answer in her piece. although before the article was published, the magazine changed her response to yes.

“People marveled at their ability to make their own rules in addition to blindly disregard everyone else’s,” Ms. Hopper said in an interview. She declined to comment on the existence of a settlement.

“The editor of the piece at in which time has not been with the company in a decade,” Vice said in a statement. “Ms. Hopper was right to call us on our conduct at the time, in addition to we are still ashamed of This kind of.”

Mr. Smith, who had long celebrated a life of hard-partying excess, married a woman in 2009 who had worked at Vice in addition to commenced wearing suits to the office, current in addition to former employees said. although they also suggested in which he oversaw a company where issues of sexual misconduct in addition to harassment festered.

In their statement, Mr. Smith in addition to Mr. Alvi admitted in which dysfunction in addition to mismanagement via the company’s early days “were allowed to flourish unchecked.”

Women said in which they felt in which rejecting sexual advances via bosses could result in reassignment or lost work, in addition to in which when they reported problems, executives downplayed the allegations. Some said in which while they considered taking legal action, they thought they lacked the financial resources to sue in addition to feared in which Vice would certainly retaliate.

“There is usually a toxic environment where men can say the most disgusting things, joke about sex openly, in addition to overall a toxic environment where women are treated far inferior than men,” said Sandra Miller, who worked as head of branded production at Vice via 2014 to 2016.

She said in which as a 50-year-old woman she did not face harassment although witnessed “the complicity of accepting in which behavior, covering up for This kind of, in addition to having even the most progressive people look the various other way.”

The workplace problems were particularly disappointing, many women said, because they had viewed Vice as their dream opportunity. The company didn’t pay well, some said, although This kind of was the definition of cool for those who wanted to create entertainment in addition to journalism on the cutting edge. The company bestowed select staff members rings in which spell V-I-C-E — considered the ultimate prize.

People worked long hours in addition to partied together afterward. in addition to in which’s where the lines often blurred. Multiple women said in which after a night of drinking, they wound up fending off touching, kissing in addition to various other advances via their superiors.

Two women told The Times about episodes involving Mike Germano, Vice’s chief digital officer who founded Carrot Creative, the digital ad agency in which Vice acquired in 2013. Amanda Rue, a former strategist, said in which at Carrot’s holiday party in 2012 Mr. Germano told her in which he hadn’t wanted to hire her because he wanted to have sex with her.

Gabrielle Schaefer, who worked closely with Mr. Germano as director of communications at Carrot, said he made her feel uncomfortable during a work event at a bar one night in 2014 when he pulled her onto his lap. After Ms. Schaefer reported the incident to human resources, she said, she felt in which she fell out of favor at the company in addition to eventually left.

“Carrot has been repeatedly recognized among the industry’s best places to work, in addition to I do not believe in which these allegations reflect the company’s culture — or the way we treat each various other,” Mr. Germano said in a statement. “With regards to the incident with Ms. Schaefer, I agreed at in which time This kind of was inappropriate, I apologized, in addition to This kind of was resolved with the help of HR.” He said in which days later Ms. Schaefer joined his family for dinner in addition to in which they “continued to work together amicably.”

inside the settlement involving Mr. Creighton, the woman claimed she felt pressured to submit to advances he made during a series of work meetings via 2013 to 2015, according to people familiar with the matter in addition to letters sent between lawyers for the woman in addition to Vice.

In a letter to the woman’s lawyer, Vice denied the allegations in addition to said the woman had initiated in addition to pursued a sexual relationship with Mr. Creighton. The company said inside the letter in which her termination was based on poor performance.

The dispute was settled in December 2016 after the woman filed a complaint with the United States Equal Opportunity Commission. (She withdrew her complaint as a condition of the agreement.)

In a statement, Mr. Creighton said in which he in addition to the woman were “close friends for several years before she joined Vice,” in addition to in which they were “occasionally intimate” once she began working there. He said he was not involved inside the decision to let her go.

“I apologize for the situation, in addition to This kind of has caused much thought in my responsibilities of care for my colleagues, in addition to I will hold myself in addition to others accountable in constructing a respectful workplace environment.”

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