Pat Langer, executive vice president of human resources at NBCUniversal, is set to retire at the end of June, according to an internal memo sent on March 29. The news of Langer’s resignation coincides with a recently completed investigation into HR practices at NBC News—in particular, whether managers had knowledge of Matt Lauer’s misconduct before his firing in November. Someone oblivious to the company’s very public reckoning wouldn’t know it, though, from the glowing note sent to staff, which made no mention of recent troubles under her watch.
“I cannot thank Pat enough for her leadership and contributions to our company,” wrote Adam Miller, executive vice president, NBCUniversal, in the memo.
“Under Pat’s direction, the HR organization created the Talent Lab, expanded bonus eligibility, improved HR systems, launched new recognition programs, increased employee perks and benefits, and enhanced executive search and talent acquisition efforts.”
Langer was hired in 2011 to be responsible for “human resources globally for the company, including compensation, staffing, benefits, labor relations, organizational development, and learning,” according to her company bio. According to the memo, she will be replaced by Vicki Williams, currently SVP, Compensation, Benefits, and HR Operations.
On Wednesday, NBC announced that it had completed its investigation of itself, in which it shockingly discovered that there was “no evidence” that anyone in leadership positions at the network had any knowledge of such complaints.
The investigation, led by NBCUniversal general counsel Kim Wells and based on 68 interviews with present and former staffers, found that while four women had alleged misconduct by Lauer, the complaints were not conveyed to managers until this past November.
From the Washington Post:
The report said the first formal complaint about Lauer was made by an unidentified employee on Nov. 22. She alleged in an internal interview a week later that Lauer had “engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.”
Lauer admitted to the allegation in an interview with NBC’s legal and human-resources staff on Nov. 28, the report said. He was fired that day.
The report said three more employees subsequently came forward with similar complaints about Lauer. Their allegations dated to 2000, 2001 and 2007, the report said.
NBC News employees told investigators that they felt uncomfortable going to HR out of fear of retaliation and because HR offices are in glass offices in the middle of where news employees sit, making anonymity hard to guarantee, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The report concluded that the news team was not a “hostile work environment” and there was no “culture of harassment.”
But the investigation’s findings conflict with other reports about Lauer’s tenure at the network, which lasted more than 20 years. Variety reports that several women said they complained about his behavior to executives, though those complaints “fell on deaf ears given the lucrative advertising surrounding Today.” One reporter told Variety, “Management sucks there. They protected the shit out of Matt Lauer.” Former Today anchor Ann Curry also told the Washington Post that she had reported Lauer’s behavior to two managers in 2012 after a woman staffer told Curry that she had been “sexually harassed physically.” “I told management they had a problem and they needed to keep an eye on him and how he deals with women,” Curry told the Post. The list goes on.
“We cannot change the past,” wrote NBC News chairman Andy Lack in a memo to employees on Wednesday. “What we can do is learn from it, and try to make it right.” Lack outlined changes he intended to implement, including a new team of employee counselors that act independently from human resources, and training sessions on appropriate behavior.
Those changes may feel like too little too late for staffers who clearly feel their concerns went ignored. It could be that NBC’s HR department is so dysfunctional that misconduct allegations against the most prominent anchor at the network were misplaced—maybe forgotten under a pile of manila envelopes. Or it could be that the people who received the complaints intentionally chose not to escalate them, unaware of the demands of their job, or unwilling to alienate the figurehead of the network’s marquee program.
Update [4:34 p.m.]: In a statement provided after the publication of this article, an NBCUniversal spokesperson said, “Pat Langer[’s] long-planned retirement was announced weeks ago and has absolutely no association with the NBC News Workplace Investigation. Any insinuation to the contrary is completely inaccurate.”
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