University President Shirley Tilghman has been ordered to turn over all her correspondence with top executives at Google, where she serves on the board of directors, as part of a subpoena signed by a New Jersey judge last month. The subpoena was issued as part of a class action lawsuit that alleges inappropriate action by Google’s top executives, including Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt ’76, and seeks correspondence from all members of the company’s board.
The subpoena, first reported by The Times of Trenton on Monday, came after attorneys representing the Brockton Retirement Board, a pension fund in the town of Brockton, Mass., that holds shares of Google, filed a lawsuit to prevent the company from going through with a planned restructuring of its stocks. The Retirement Board claims that the stock split would marginalize minority investors like itself while empowering executives like Schmidt and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The Retirement Board alleges that the split was created to serve the interest of the company’s leadership and not the shareholders as a whole.
Tilghman is not being targeted specifically, the Retirement Board’s attorney told the Times, and the group does not suspect the University or its president has acted inappropriately. The entire Google board has been asked to hand over documents that may reflect why the leadership chose to split the stock. In addition to the documents, Tilghman has also been directed to disclose donations and contribution pledges she or the University made to charities and other foundations affiliated with Google leadership.
Tilghman first joined the Google Board of Directors in 2005, at the encouragement of the University Board of Trustees. Tilghman now treks out to Silicon Valley four times a year for Google board meetings, where she sits alongside Stanford President John Hennessy and earns over $500,000 a year.
It is common for university presidents to serve on corporate boards, though it occasionally presents potential conflicts of interest. Tilghman has said that she recuses herself from Google-related decisions at the University, instead delegating the decisionmaking to University Provost Christopher Eisgruber ’83. This year, all undergraduate student email will be switched to Gmail as part of a suite of Google applications offered to students, the closest recent interaction between the University and the technology giant.
Schmidt served on the University Board of Trustees from 2004 to 2008 and now sits on the board of trustees at the nearby Institute of Advanced Study. He last returned to campus on May 10, when he spoke in McCosh Hall about the future of technology.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/09/04/31066/