back to article IBM ordered to hand over ex-CEO emails plotting cuts in older workers

In one of the many ongoing age discrimination lawsuits against IBM, Big Blue has been ordered to produce internal emails in which former CEO Ginny Rometty and former SVP of Human Resources Diane Gherson discuss efforts to get rid of older employees. IBM as recently as February denied any "systemic age discrimination" ever …

  1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Coat

    The dog ate it

    I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was found that these emails were to have been lost forever during the email migration last year, including of course multiple backups.

    https://www.theregister.com/2021/06/30/ibm_email_outage/

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: The dog ate it

      I was about to say, wouldn't it be delicious if IBM's response was "the emails are older than a certain limit so we got rid of them"...

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: The dog ate it

        That's my employer's email policy, anything over 60 days old goes to /dev/null unless you actually save a copy

        1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          Re: The dog ate it

          "That's my employer's email policy, anything over 60 days old goes to /dev/null unless you actually save a copy"

          YOU lose access to the emails after 60 days. The COMPANY will keep them. There are 2 reasons for this: first is the legal mandate (varies per state and per country), and second is so that if there's a dispute between you and them, only they have access to all the information. Hence why I keep offline backups of everything - just in case.

          1. teknopaul Silver badge

            Re: The dog ate it

            Maybe, maybe the company is behaving in an illegal manner and hoping no one will say anything about on t'interwebs ;)

            I caught an insurance company deliberately deleting emails that were know to contain contract terminations.

            1. LordWilmore

              Re: The dog ate it

              The company will still keep them, but not tell anybody that they have them. That stuff could be useful

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The dog ate it

            and second is so that if there's a dispute between you and them, only they have access to all the information. Hence why I keep offline backups of everything - just in case.

            Ha!

            About 10 years ago I was discussing contracts with a company I do business with and they were alarmed when I sent them a copy of our contract from the start of the 90s which had no end date. They don't have a copy and they don't have a copy of any replacement or cancellation either.

            Don't lose data you might need later on

            1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

              Re: The dog ate it

              Exactly this

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The dog ate it

            "Hence why I keep offline backups of everything - just in case."

            You remove company data from their infrastructure? I suspect they'll have their wrongful dismissal suit brought against them thrown out pretty quickly.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The dog ate it

      During discovery for the UK High Court case resulting from Project Waltz 2010 (a Resource action disguised as Pension changes) IBM claimed they could not provide the emails for the former UK CEO because he had forgotten his Lotus Notes password

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Re: The dog ate it

        From a technical perspective that is actually possible. Old Lotus Notes used to keep emails in a .nsf file which was essentially an encrypted database; the encryption could be pretty powerful, and there was no concept of access control hierarchy; so there was no admin/domain password and if the user password was forgotten, that database became useless. Could it be cracked? Sure, given enough computer power to brute force it (I don't think Notes enforced a password delay mechanism) but I can certainly imagine it was decided that it wasn't worth the effort if the evidence could be obtained another way.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The dog ate it

      Losing the records might not help. Civil cases are decided on balance of probability. Being blameless but being unable to prove it because you'd lost electronic records when managing electronic records is your business might seem improbable to the jury.

      1. Trigonoceps occipitalis Silver badge

        Re: The dog ate it

        In the UK juries very seldom sit in civil disputes.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The dog ate it

      You'd have to decide whether it was worse publicity for IBM to provide them or to say that IBM couldn't provide a copy of emails. There might even be some old salt who had a local copy of their Notes db.

  2. Judge Mental

    Would you trust your business with a company that loses it's own data?

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      I've worked for several companies whose ability to hold its own data securely and available was significantly less than 100%.

      In one company I met a very nice chap whose entire job was rectifying the services we provided to customers with what they were being billed for, with what they were expecting and, if available, what it said in the contract(s). He was very busy.

      When I retired* from that company, I hd a minor disagreement about the amount of my redundancy payment that counted as PILON (Pay In Lieu Of Notice). They reckoned 6 moths, and I reckoned 1 month. Fortunately I had kept my original contract, so was able to fax HR a copy of the relevant page, thereby saving myself several thousands in tax.

      *Took 'voluntary redundancy'. I now count as 'economically inactive', even though I still have to pay for loads of things, like food, newspapers, internet connections, travel, accommodation etc.

    2. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      Would you trust your business with a company that loses it's own data?

      I suppose that depends on whether your business anticipates a need to strategically lose said data.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh, how difficult it must be for IBM, knowing that they aren't being allowed to get away with it this time... and knowing full well what happened despite their protestations to the contrary.

  4. ShadowSystems Silver badge

    Seventy-one in six years?!?!?

    Holy shit! With the headman's axe swinging like a Barbarian rolling a string of Nat20's with a Vorpal weapon & Mighty Cleave through a hoarde of rats, it's a bloody miracle there's anyone left working there at all!

    That's one culling every damned month. I swear they should be forced to explain WTF such "Resource Actions" are supposed to do other than kill off everyone capable of actually doing anything. =-/

    1. FrankAlphaXII

      Re: Seventy-one in six years?!?!?

      That's the point. They're asset stripping. It's Icahn and TWA all over again. I'm sure it'll be a model for every Harvard MBA to follow for years to come.

    2. keithpeter Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Seventy-one in six years?!?!?

      Slow P&O?(*)

      i.e. get rid of people in high cost countries and hire people in lower cost countries. Coupled with a shift away from actual products into 'services'.

      Over time, of course, the wage rates in the lower cost countries will rise, so the employees become expensive again, and so another move...

      (*)P&O is a UK specific reference to a 'resource action' taken by a ferry company where they sacked the entire UK operational workforce and hired agency staff from countries outwith the UK at below minimum wage rates.

    3. Stubbly Dude

      Re: Seventy-one in six years?!?!?

      This is misleading, see my clarification elsewhere - these are client transfer programs, not resource actions.

    4. An_Old_Dog Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Seventy-one in six years?!?!?

      They intend to play "Solitaire" (code-name #1 on their list).

    5. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: Seventy-one in six years?!?!?

      That is because there is: "no systemic age discrimination". I can only assume that they have so many different ones, which only coincidentally have age as one of the factors to be considered for 'managed exit' so that they can 'honestly' claim there was no intention to 'systemically' discriminate on age.

      Re dinobabies - why can I not get an image from 'The Good Dinosaur' out of my head? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-RgquKVTPE

    6. Flywheel
      FAIL

      Re: Seventy-one in six years?!?!?

      kill off everyone capable of actually doing anything

      It's okay, they'll have an AI product for that, real soon now. However, if you look at what they've achieved with Artie the seven-armed octopus, a stowaway on the Mayflower Autonomous Ship, they're screwed.

  5. FrankAlphaXII

    They're more fucked for the apparently systemic securities fraud than anything. Which is complete bullshit, people are more important than lying about sales to gild the garmets of some Ivy League MBA business criminal cabron, but Wall Street don't ever care about the people getting hurt, only how their stack of money may have been affected by one of their own kind.

    I'm sure they'll sell more parts of themselves to Lenovo, maybe mainframes this time, especially since it's a toxic asset with a securities fraud investigation surrounding it.

    1. Someone Else Silver badge

      [...] some Ivy League MBA business criminal cabron [...]

      Love. It.

      Can I use it elsewhere?

      1. Atomic Duetto

        Oh good god, that is gold !

        (Borrowing it)

  6. GuldenNL

    Buh buh buh Female Executives Are The Best!

    Saw the same at HP.

    Plenty of blame to go around there, but I’d love to argue the point that female executives are any better than male counterparts. Identity politics mixed with business is hilarious because we have so many samples where they are wrong.

    1. Stubbly Dude

      Re: Buh buh buh Female Executives Are The Best!

      Careful, your bias is showing....

      1. GuldenNL

        Re: Buh buh buh Female Executives Are The Best!

        Bias because I am saying there’s no difference between male and female CEOs? Careful, your identity politics are showing.

        1. Stubbly Dude

          Re: Buh buh buh Female Executives Are The Best!

          Bias because you felt you had to raise the issue of gender at all..

          1. GuldenNL

            Re: Buh buh buh Female Executives Are The Best!

            Mmm hmm, funny how that goes both ways. You can’t go a day without hearing how female execs are better than makes, and how things are a changing. Are you writing those articles?

            1. sabroni Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: You can’t go a day without hearing how female execs are better than makes

              Oooh, that's a lovely straw woman you've built there!

          2. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: Buh buh buh Female Executives Are The Best!

            A new group to define - inCEOs

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Buh buh buh Female Executives Are The Best!

        Is that because they are Into Big Men? I knew a Harriet who ran with our Hash and worked for IBM - she was very happy with "Into Big Men" ... her Hash name.

    2. Galettes au Sarrasin

      Re: Buh buh buh Female Executives Are The Best!

      No one said that. Carly Fiorina, for ex., is considered a famously terrible CEO. Anyone you encountered saying that is notably uninformed and unsophisticated about their views. You want to make the argument because it’s an easy one, the equivalent of T-ball, and you’ve likely been practicing it in your mind for some reason or other. To be clear I am not asking you to expand on that, nor particularly interested in or available to discuss this silly idea further.

  7. Yes Me Silver badge
    Meh

    Foresight

    I'd just love to see Ginny Gone-Lately's actual emails with the HR woman. But I don't expect I ever will. There's a reason why IBM years ago had the foresight to enforce 6-month expiry on all internal emails.

    1. Stubbly Dude

      Re: Foresight

      They did...? Funny that. My emails go back to when I joined so I have no idea where you got that information. There's surely enough actual dodgy goings on to look at rather than make stuff up .

    2. Galettes au Sarrasin

      Re: Foresight

      There are often regulatory document retention obligations for companies of this size, particularly publicly traded ones. It’s a whole field in itself. So is data recovery. A few people here seem to be speculating about it based on their own work experience without even clarifying whether their company is the size of this one or has the same ongoing legal hold obligations.

      A small, quick example -

      https://www.techtarget.com/searchdatabackup/definition/data-retention-policy

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Foresight

      Ginni & Diane Gherson's emails will be exposed, because they have them. That's how the contents of those emails were released in the Lohnn v IBM case. They're coming for sure. And Gherson is teaching at Harvard Biz School....guess they forgot to vet her. These two are both in their 60s, 10 yrs older than the demographic they targeted & part of the "dated maternal workforce," they mentioned in the emails. If only they could lock them up for all their atrocities.

  8. EricB123 Bronze badge

    I'm a Dinobaby!

    Well, I guess that's not so bad. I've been called worse things in the past.

  9. PhilipN Silver badge

    Systemic vs. Systematic

    There is a difference. Denying one leaves the other on foot.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    71 RA's.

    Holy cow, When I was with IBM, I faced more redundancy programmes in the 6 years I was there than I had my entire previous careers (spanning quite a number of years). But 71? That's a full time job managing that crap in itself. From what I remember, all hiring and firing was done from the US. I wonder if they split it down like that to try and hide the large numbers of people and the demographic? Trim a bit here, trim a bit there....

    1. Stubbly Dude

      See my comment elsewhere. These were not RAs - these are client programs...

      1. Slapdog

        Dude, see my response to your response. You are incorrect. Yours may be a "client program", I can assure you, most listed are RAs

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I was going to say. In the time I was there I was subjected to at least 10 I can think of over 6 years. I stopped bothering to remember the names or even really care. It began to feel like a continuous RA (and now I can see why).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      rolling cuts

      Yeah, it was 15% by geography, band and profession annually when I was there (2013) moving to the same quarterly soon after. That's after years of relative PBC ratings and forcing out the compulsary 5's

  11. Kane Silver badge
    Megaphone

    How much???

    $20k for four hours of work? Per day??

    $10k for less than four hours??

    Per day????

    So she can send an email in the morning and that's $10k. Job done.

    [$Deity Offspring] on a [Two Wheeled Ambulatory Vehicle], no wonder they need to make so many cuts. If she does a full years work, they have to sack an entire division!!

    1. aerogems Silver badge

      Re: How much???

      To: accounting@ibm.com

      From: Ginny.Rometty@ibm.com

      Subject: Pay me

      Give me my $10,000 for the day!

      Sincerely,

      Ginny "Ha ha ha ha... Suckers!" Rometty

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How much???

        To: Ginny.Rometty@ibm.com

        From: accounting@ibm.com

        Subject: Re Pay me

        Dear Ginny, I has come to my notice that you are over the age of 18 and therefore in accordance with the rules you laid out (see attached executive order) I have to inform you that you are terminate and we will no longer be paying you.

        1. John70
          Joke

          Re: How much???

          So old???

          Thought it was down to 1 hour after being born...

        2. Potemkine! Silver badge

          Re: How much???

          Since when rules issued by the C-suite apply to the C-suite?

    2. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: How much???

      Is it the money you're upset about or the fact it's going to a woman?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How much???

      Well she has to pay for all that helicopter fuel somehow, doesn't she? :)

  12. Stubbly Dude

    Those aren't resource actions...

    Ok, I hate to have to be that guy but that list of projects are not resource actions. These are client programs where IBM brought client staff over as part of outsource deals for infrastructure and application support.

    How do I know? Because I was brought into IBM as part of Osprey. Falcon was the first phase (infrastructure) followed two years later by Osprey for applications, In each case thousands of client employees were taken on as part of a TUPE agreement with each client. People were given a clear choice whether to onboard with IBM or apply for a new role with the original employer. Many of us are still at IBM years later.

    It's sloppy thinking like this that will just cause even more delays because the IBM legal team will be able to argue successfully that each of the programs listed include commercially sensitive client data and any redundancies that took place were done so as part of the quite legal TUPE legislation in place in each territory.

    Yes, there was a huge outsourcing of work to the sub-continent but it would be really hard to argue that there was any discrimination involved when the strategy undertaken was at the request of the original client as a means to save support costs by offf-shoring where applicable.

    I'm not trying to make excuses here, btw, but the list is very misleading and is an absolute gift to the IBM legal bods.

    1. Slapdog

      Re: Those aren't resource actions...

      Dude,

      SOME may be as you say, outsourcing, I can't say, but, I can assure you, Chrome, Baccarat, and many more listed WERE layoffs.

      As for outsourcing, IBM cleverly disguised actions to get the desired results.

      Read up on the rulings. You'll see.

      1. Killfalcon Silver badge

        Re: Those aren't resource actions...

        I don't work for IBM, but IBM do provide a lot of the support staff to my company, which has a lot of old legacy software because, well, finance be like that. Think Cobol on mainframes, and spectacularly arcane storage networks. Some of them even worked in our offices, fully embedded, just paid by IBM and with what seemed to be far less enjoyable annual reviews.

        Around 2009, IBM announced a load of redundancies, including our embedded support teams... but, here's the thing - our contract with IBM was very specific that they couldn't do that! Our board of directors got involved while Group Legal stared sharpening their knives, and IBM backed down.

    2. JoeCool Bronze badge

      Re: Those aren't resource actions...

      " the IBM legal team will be able to argue successfully that each of the programs listed include commercially sensitive client data and any redundancies that took place were done so as part of the quite legal TUPE legislation in place in each territory."

      There are a lot of assumptions there.

      IBM couldn't design a TUPE action that's also ageist ?

      IBM couldn't use the action as cover for ageist firing of current employees as "redundant".

      Commercially sensitive will give cover for something ?

      IBM will be successfull ?

      If that list leads to this, or more disclosure I am pretty sure it's not a gift that IBM wants to keep.

    3. Galettes au Sarrasin

      Re: Those aren't resource actions...

      “These are client programs where IBM brought client staff over as part of outsource deals for infrastructure and application support.”

      You don’t think HR is involved in those at some level, doesn’t ever even have HR people sit in on planning meetings? The administration and operation of a client program and of the company’s strategy with regard to client programs in various regions in a company as large as IBM and with as many moving parts often involves more teams of people than just client staff themselves and their immediate supervisors. Many things do. It’s also a bit much to say that a large corp with as many layers of professionals as this one, everyone who was brought on (or let go, that’s what the litigation is about after all) had the same experience you did. This is a company that - I quickly checked - does business in approximately 170 companies and has approximately 345,000 employees.

    4. WokeUpThisMorning

      Re: Those aren't resource actions...

      Most are...they've left off the codename for the 2016 layoffs. The project codenames are listed in a few of the lawsuits filed. You can read them all on line.

  13. aerogems Silver badge
    Holmes

    I always wonder

    I always wonder when things like this happen, how it is people like the HR rep who responded to El Reg, live with themselves. How do you defend these kinds of practices and still sleep at night? Seems like you'd have to be a stone cold sociopath who has absolutely no capacity for empathy.

    Sherlock because he's the only one who has even a prayer of finding the answer.

    1. BOFH in Training Silver badge

      Re: I always wonder

      Just have to remember that they are not the ones being asked to go, and possibly reminding themselves of the money they getting paid to spin stuff in public.

    2. cmdrklarg

      Re: I always wonder

      Considering the large number of people who have a "I got mine, fuck you" attitude it's not that hard to find people who don't give a damn about others.

    3. JoeCool Bronze badge

      Re: I always wonder

      There are many answers.

      First, HR is not a profession in the sense that there are standards or accreditation, so the "talent" pool is wiiiide open. Ethics are not a key job point

      Second, virtually every HR dept's job is to protect upper management from themselves. Full stop. Everything else they do is a front.

      As a result, the key personal attribute of any one working in HR is to figure out what any given exec wants, and make sure that it happens. As safely as possible.

      This is a "culture" item and probably anyone that can't buy into that self selects themselves out into another career path.

    4. WokeUpThisMorning

      Re: I always wonder

      HR kept llsts. The lists funneled down to managers instructed to do layoffs (some of them were incompetent, less educated than the employees picked for layoffs). In some cases, they were brought in to create a hostile workplace; give out wrong meeting dates/times; switch clients around - sales ppl were given new clients who IBM knew would not buy their outdated software. These managers, in turn, got promoted (so egregious). One example, is sales compensation. IBM NEVER put in writing there was a cap on commissions. Some sales people were owed up to $1mil in commissions. When they open doored, they were told there was a cap of $10-20K which was total BS. Some of those people got put on a list for layoff or firing, and were RA'd.

      One case in WA, Kingston v IBM, was about a white man getting a $1mil commission (didn't happen on the east coast, thus, the sales commission lawsuits there) and a black man, Scott Kingston, not getting $2.4mil in back commissions (he got $275K which is a huge chunk of change compared to the measley $10-20K in NYC). The manager told IBM to pay to pay Kingston or they would be facing a racism lawsuit. IBM ignored the manager and Kingston and fired both of them. The manager won $11mil in his lawsuit ($6mil for pain and suffering), and Kingston settled.

      https://news.bloomberglaw.com/daily-labor-report/fired-ibm-manager-who-backed-black-salesman-awarded-11-million

  14. DJV Silver badge

    "an IBM spokesperson"

    Maybe El Reg should now always refer to them as "an IBM spokesliar" instead.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Once the ladies in HR have you on their “list”

    Your days are numbered.

    (Yes, it’s always a woman)

  16. Enriquegarrito

    Seriously

    How IBM Chief Human Resources Officer Nickle LaMoreaux can expect anyone to believe her claims that E-Mail exchanges between former IBM CEO Virginia Rometti and Senior VP of Human Resources, Diane Gherson disparaging older employees as dinobabies who need to become extinct at IBM does not somehow affect employment IBM policy is beyond belief. Their words and desires expressed obviously became the policy of the company.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Personnel Jackets/Emails

    Asking for your personnel jacket is an issue too. Many of the people suing didn't think to take it. If you ask for it afterwards, there's not a prayer in hell, they will keep all the correspondence that targeted you - the person who got laid off. In the Castelluccio vs IBM case (2014?), the "young" manager who targeted Castelluccio (62) had to release all the emails, reviews, etc that basically said to get rid of him one way or another and make sure no other dept hired him. He showed up but they refused to give him work. He was Director-level. He won his age discrimination case, and surprise, surprise, that "young" manager got one promotion after the other. IBM incentivizes layoffs. They're an abomination, and all these litigants should line up at the next Shareholder's meeting and tell their stories one by one. The world would be shocked. Many of the employees layoff details are in the Kinney lawsuit, but the other cases filed and are settling, won't have a chance to tell their tales until after their lawsuits are close. It's a travesty. IBM should be very careful too, because the amount of racism, sexism and sexual harassment and assaults going back as far as the '70s has yet to surface.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rometty hit the jackpot

    So Rometty gets $20K/day to peruse the internet for four hours; $10K/day to do nothing while these poor litigants got their lives and families destroyed, and one life was taken. The settlements, I'm sure, are pennies on the dollar. This woman also has 3-5 houses (a penthouse at the Ritz in White Plains, NY - one of many). She is pure evil as are the managers who were part of "The Scheme," so brilliantly outlined by the attorneys in the Kinney case. The managers set employees up, then got promoted after laying them off. They need to be exposed too. Let's not forget Gherson is teaching at Harvard Business School! They didn't vet her? Both of these women should be so ashamed. Notice, they're still working, are part of the "dated maternal workforce" (Rometty's & Gherson's words about the inability of older women to adapt to new technology) and both are in their 60s (10 yrs past their targeted demographic). Hopefully, karma will come knocking on their doors for all they've inflicted on others.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In this case, just like the Langley lawsuit in Texas, the IBM attys will be running up the stairs to the courthouse trying to settle. I hope Schenfeld doesnt so the whole world can see the true IBM. They don't want these documents out. The Lohnn v IBM got the most egregious content of these emails out: "dinobabies," "outdated maternal workforce.' The irony is Rometty & Gherson are both, but they got to keep their jobs while shredding & destroying good people's lives. And Ginni's alleged remark when she heard the term "dinobabies," was "I love the energy." Insensitive & disgusting but not surprising. She has no soul. All she's done since she became CEO in 2013 until she left in 2020 was lay people off & line her own pockets (& the other C-suite execs named in the shareholders securities fraud lawsuit) through financial engineering: layoffs & cutting sales commissions at employees' expense. Hopefully, the release of these documents will bolster the shareholders securities fraud lawsuit agst Rometty, et al & further Ginni's destruction. She's tarnished IBM forever.They need to put an end to her heinous 10-20K/day payouts for doing little to no work & stop the incessant denial that there is no systemic age discrimination when the EEOC's own investigation proved there was.

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