GBTA CEO accused of racism

SINGAPORE, 22 June 2020: A whistleblower’s email has accused Global Business Travel Association CEO, Scott Solombrino, of misconduct almost three months after his high profile appointment at the end of March.

First reported by Business Travel News on 12 June the widely distributed email accused the CEO of creating “hostile working surroundings for women and racial minorities”.

Photo: GBTA TV

GBTA confirmed it has given Solombrino administrative leave and hired a law firm to conduct an independent review.

The anonymous whistleblower accused the CEO of enjoying a steady string of luxurious lodge stays and high-end peaks while denying primary expense reimbursements to GBTA workers.

He was promoted to the top post in May after holding the post of chief operating officer for one year. He replaced Michael  McCormick, who had been GBTA CEO for 10 years.

The whistleblowers’ letter, which was signed “current & former GBTA Staff,” pointed to a number of ongoing and specific incidents some described as “racist, divisive and derogatory comments aimed at female staff.

The letter notes ongoing derogatory references to past and present staff, board members, buyer members, vendors and media, along with daily comments directed to staff like “you are crazy, you are insane, you are stupid, idiot, you are boring,” and Solombrino’s declarations that GBTA is not a democracy and that “they [the board] don’t care and they let me do whatever I want.”

In response to the complaints the GBTA board has hired New York-based law firm Polsinelli to conduct an internal investigation, but it is not clear whether they took action prior to the story breaking earlier this week in ‘The Company Dime’.

That news outlet substantiated some of the claims in the anonymous complaint by obtaining an internal email sent by Scott Solombrino on 7 June that “berated staff and hurled invective about Colorado Governor Jared Polis, who apparently withdrew permission for GBTA to hold its annual convention at the Denver Convention Centre 6 to 11 November.”

GBTA would not confirm the fate of the annual convention when BTN inquired on Thursday. The association said  that an announcement would be made “shortly.”

In the meantime, GBTA has hired the PR firm, Leibowitz Solo, to manage the evolving reputational situation. Asked on Thursday to show that the GBTA board was committed to running a thorough investigation of the issues, Leibowitz said:

“The GBTA Board has the utmost confidence in the organization’s executive leadership team… At the same time, GBTA stands fully committed to providing every one of our team members with a respectful work environment, a workplace free from all forms of unlawful harassment and discrimination.”

Liebowitz pushed back on the complaint, citing the GBTA CEO’s self-proclaimed spotless record when it comes to workplace conduct.

“In business and as a leader, I’ve always treated the men and women around me with honesty and fairness. While at times I may need to choose my words more carefully, in my 44-year career, I’ve never faced a single workplace complaint, let alone anything like the allegations contained in these anonymous emails,” said Solomonbrino.

In a press statement released at the weekend, Global Business Travel Association confirmed the CEO had been placed on “administrative leave” following preliminary results of a probe of allegations of staff harassment and inappropriate remarks.

“We have determined that further investigation is required in this matter,” the board said in its 20 June statement. “We have taken this step to affirm that this inquiry has the necessary depth, that the reviewer has sufficient time to consider and corroborate facts and statements and to give any and all concerned parties an opportunity to come forward.

GBTA senior staff who previously reported to the CEO will now report directly to the executive committee of the board,” the statement said.

(Source: Business Travel News, The Company Dime and GBTA statements)