Jeff Smith joins a growing list of global executives who have lost their jobs because of office romances.
News has emerged that the world’s largest asset manager BlackRock fired its top HR executive Jeff Smith for failing to having a relationship with a colleague. Citing ‘a person familiar the matter’ Bloomberg has reported that Smith was only the first of two senior execs removed following a relationship at work as Mark Wiseman, global head of active equities, recently left company after failing to report an affair with a person who reported to him.
Apparently, the two executives had received fair warning after BlackRock CEO Larry Fink and other members of the global executive committee had already discussed how they would be held to higher ethical standards than other employees, particularly in light of the #MeToo era, which has heightened awareness across corporate America of the power dynamics in work relationships.
Not long ago, McDonald’s Corp.’s CEO Steve Easterbrook left the company because he had been having an affair with an employee and, in June 2018, Intel Corp CEO Brian Krzanich was dismissed after the company’s leadership learned of the consensual relationship he had been with an employee.
Even though BlackRock stated the reason for Smith's departure as “failure to adhere to company policy," it is well understood that the relationship with the employee was the driving factor.
Bloomberg reports: "Both departures were announced in bluntly worded memos sent to approximately 16,000 employees worldwide, a sign of how serious Fink and President Rob Kapito are about punishing any misconduct among top officials as the firm seeks to position itself at the forefront of environmental, social and governance issues.”