The news could have the effect of a bomb in the corridors of the Googleplex of Mountain View. And for good reason, one of the divisions of Google would have been infiltrated by a sect, according to an investigation by the New York Times. This reveals that the Google Developer Studio (GDS), which produces videos showcasing the technologies of the American giant, is directed by Peter Lubbers, a longtime member of the Community of Friends. In total, no less than 12 members of this obscure religious organization would work for this branch of Google.
The Community of Friends was founded in 1970 by Robert Earl Burton, a former Bay Area schoolteacher who was suspected of sexually abusing several members of his organization. It claims 1,500 members worldwide, including 500 to 600 near its huge Oregon House complex, north of Sacramento. This sect believes that a higher consciousness can be achieved by embracing fine arts and culture. the New York Times specifies that its members must generally donate 10% of their monthly income to the organization. So being close to Silicon Valley and its tech giants can be particularly lucrative.
“Favouritism and cronyism” within the Google Developer Studio
The influence of this sect within the Californian group has been highlighted by Kevin Lloyd, a former video producer for Google who claims to have been fired in 2021 after complaining about the influence of this organization. In addition to the US firm, the former employee also filed a complaint against Advanced Systems Group (ASG), the company that had sent him to Google as a service provider. He accuses the two companies of violating a California employment law that protects employees from discrimination. His testimony was corroborated by interviews with the New York Times with eight employees who have worked or are still working in the Google Developer Studio.
For the damages suffered, Kevin Lloyd is claiming $50,000 in damages for wrongful dismissal. In his complaint, he considers in particular that “cult members dominate [son] former team at Google using favoritism and cronyism”. So the New York Times explains how Peter Lubbers, the director of the Google Developer Studio, was able to bring several members of the Community of Friends into this division of the web giant.
Hirings passed under the radars of Google
Erik Johanson, a video producer who has worked for Google Developer Studio since 2015 through ASG, said the team’s management abused the hiring system that allows people to be recruited as contractors. “They were able to achieve their own goals very quickly because they could hire people with a lot less control and a much less rigorous onboarding process than if those people were brought in as full-time employees”, did he declare. Therefore, no one really paid attention to the fact that almost half of the Google Developer Studio team came from Oregon House, where the cult is based.
In addition to this hiring mechanism, which may have fostered the influence of this cult within Google, other members of the Friends Community and their relatives were hired to organize Google events. In addition, the American firm regularly bought wine from Grant Marie, an Oregon House winery run by a member of the sect, whose winery he previously managed directly. “Invoices I’ve seen suggest we buy hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of wine there every year”, explains Kevin Lloyd. If these facts were proven by US justice, it would mean that Google indirectly funded the Community of Friends. In this context, the shock wave linked to this affair could create some turmoil in the ranks of Google and put a little more damage to its corporate culture.