Today Rolling Stone magazine published a negative and disturbing article about BMI, accusing the company of fostering an overall toxic environment and condoning casual racism, mainly in our LA office. This was a very difficult story to learn about and to read, because I absolutely believe that this is not at the core of who we are.
While I’m proud of the progress we have made in our commitment to becoming more inclusive and diverse, we still have work to do. I said to you in my Town Hall this past June that I am not satisfied with where we are, and as a company we can and must do better. We are taking many necessary and right steps to get us to where we need and want to be, not just for now, but for long into the future.
As you know, I am committed to being fully transparent with you every step of the way as we work to better ourselves and our company, and in that spirit, I’d like to address further some of the points specifically raised in this article:
The majority of the story focuses on the statements and social media posts of two BMI employees. Let me be very clear – when behavior violates our core values, it is addressed. I believe that when people make mistakes and take ownership for them, they deserve the opportunity to correct them. It is how people learn and grow. But when they continue to make those mistakes, we will hold them accountable, and that is exactly what happened here.
While I know some of you may ask why these matters weren’t addressed in a more public manner at the time (something this story also raised), I would stress that we treat all personnel matters with complete confidentiality out of respect for our employees’ privacy. Just because there is no public announcement does not mean there was no disciplinary action taken. While we understand that may be frustrating for some, it remains our policy and that will not change.
There is also reference to a lawsuit with two former employees. We investigated this and found it to be completely without merit. We also shared with Rolling Stone, which they failed to include, that the lawsuit actually cut-and-pasted complaints made against other companies and non-BMI employees and then left those other names in the complaint against BMI. We absolutely disagreed with the allegations raised in the lawsuit, as well as the comments about it. As for why we settled? Litigation is expensive and a distraction from day-to-day work. While an unfortunate reality, sometimes it is more pragmatic to settle. In hindsight, perhaps we should have made a different decision.
Please also know that we provided Rolling Stone with a number of important facts and statistics that were counter to the narrative of this story. They were not included, for reasons that I can’t say. What I can say is that I believe we are on the right path forward and that the changes we have already started will continue for the better. As you know we are currently recruiting for a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Responsibility Officer, reporting directly to me, one of many steps we have already taken. We will continue to address these issues head on and work hard to ensure a diverse and equitable culture. This has been and will continue to be my top priority.
You know I am always open and available to talk, and I expect and hope that many of you will want to. Please pick up the phone and give me a call. I will welcome that conversation.
In June 2020, O’Neill held an all-employee Town Hall where he announced comprehensive and specific actions to be taken across BMI to further improve and ensure a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace. These included:
- Hiring a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Responsibility Officer, reporting directly to BMI’s President and CEO, to examine, among other things, the Company’s hiring practices, recruiting and training. BMI is currently working with its partners at Russell Reynolds on this search, which is ongoing and should be completed by early next year.
- Creating an internal Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force made up of a cross-section of BMI employees and led by Catherine Brewton, BMI’s VP of Creative in Atlanta.
- Establishing a Volunteer policy where BMI will give employees four days of paid time off, in addition to vacation time, to volunteer at a local, community-based organization that supports one of the following four core areas of focus:
- Promoting Diversity
- Championing Social and Racial Justice
- Serving Underserved Communities
- Protecting Voting Rights
- Establishing internal Affinity/Employee Resource Groups at BMI.
- Donating $275,000 to organizations that advance social equality and racial justice. This was divided among organizations focused on supporting voting rights, underserved communities and justice reform, as well as a group of smaller, locally-focused organizations in the cities where BMI has offices. In keeping with the spirit of BMI and its mission, the Company also donated to the creation of the Black American Music Walk of Fame in Atlanta.