While she was the chief executive of EBay, Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman shoved a subordinate who later received a confidential six-figure settlement, according to a report published by the New York Times on Monday.
The incident reportedly occurred in June 2007 at the company’s San Jose headquarters, as EBay communications employee Young Mi Kim was helping Whitman prepare for an interview with Reuters. The story was based on interviews with current and former employees at the online auction firm who declined to give their names because the matter was “deemed to be strictly confidential,” the paper said.
According to their accounts, Whitman got angry, uttered an expletive and pushed Kim, or “physically guided” her out of the conference room. Kim left the company for a short time after the incident, but returned and is now a senior manager for corporate communications.
Neither Whitman nor Kim commented on the details of the incident, but their statements confirmed that a significant quarrel had occurred.
“In any high-pressure working environment, tensions can surface,” Whitman said in a statement. “Young Mi and I had a professional disagreement which we put behind us. She and I continued to work together at EBay, where I valued her skilled counsel and thorough professionalism.”
Sarah Pompei, a spokeswoman for Whitman’s gubernatorial campaign, declined to comment on whether the disagreement became physical, as the newspaper reported.
“Meg is a serious, results-focused boss,” Pompei said. “A verbal dispute in a high-pressure working environment isn’t out of the ordinary.”
Kim, who could not be reached for comment Monday, confirmed to the New York Times that a disagreement had occurred.
“Yes, we had an unfortunate incident, but we resolved it in a way that speaks well for her and for EBay,” she said. “And ultimately, I came back to the company, which is not something I had to do.”
According to the report, Kim threatened legal action and received a confidential six-figure settlement that one source told the New York Times was “around $200,000" after mediation suggested by EBay. The paper also reported that Henry Gomez, then president of an EBay subsidiary and now a senior advisor to Whitman’s gubernatorial effort, “counseled” Whitman about the incident. The campaign declined to make Gomez available for an interview Monday.
EBay declined official comment on Monday. “Meg Whitman and Young Mi Kim have commented on the matter in response to questions from The New York Times. We have nothing to add,” the company said in a statement.
Whitman, who is making her first run for office, has offered as a credential her experience running EBay, a skill set that she says could help her fix California’s troubled finances. But this is not the first time experiences from her corporate life have come back to haunt her in this campaign.
She was accused of age discrimination while at FTD, a lawsuit that also resulted in a confidential settlement, and at EBay she received special access to lucrative stock offerings made by the investment house Goldman Sachs. After a lawsuit by EBay stockholders alleged that she had received the stock in exchange for steering EBay banking business to Goldman Sachs, Whitman returned nearly $1.8 million in profits.