Former Grammys CEO alleges rampant sexual misconduct, discrimination, corruption within the Grammys

Deborah Dugan alleges that the Grammys is plagued with a culture of racial and gender-based discrimination, and that artists like Ariana Grande and Ed Sheeran have been sidelined by voter corruption.

January 21, 2020
Former Grammys CEO alleges rampant sexual misconduct, discrimination, corruption within the Grammys Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

Deborah Dugan, the former National Academy of Recording Arts president and CEO who was ousted from her job earlier this week, has alleged that the Recording Academy and its flagship event the Grammy Awards are rife with deep-seated issues, including corruption, covered-up instances of rape and sexual misconduct, and an overwhelming “boys club” mentality.


In a bone-chilling complaint filed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by Dugan’s lawyer Douglas Wigdor, Dugan alleges that she was sexually harassed by former board member and chair of the Grammys board. She also claims that the board withheld the fact that former Grammys CEO Neil Portnow, who was supposedly ousted for misogynistic remarks he made regarding female performers, was actually fired because he raped a female recording artist.

Elsewhere in her complaint, Dugan states that the Grammy Awards are plagued by significant voter corruption, leading to an overrepresentation of white and male awards winners. Per the complaint, category nomination review committees — which review the top selections for nomination that have been voted on by the 12,000-member Academy — are regularly swayed by the Grammys board, who push nominations for artists who they either want to perform at the ceremony, have relationships with, or both. “Indeed, it is not unusual for artists who have relationships with Board members and who ranked at the bottom of the initial 20-artist list to end up receiving nominations,” the complaint states.

“To make matters worse, the Board is permitted to simply add in artists for nominations who did not even make the [top 20] list,” the complaint continues. “This year, 30 artists that were not selected by the membership were added to the possible nomination list.”

The complaint goes on to note that in some years, as in 2019, Board influence led to highly-ranked artists including Ariana Grande and Ed Sheeran missing out on nominations. “Sheeran and Grande, who had been voted for by the membership, missed out on nominations in the 2019 “Song of the Year” category,” the complaint explains, “In part because [a lower-ranked artist represented by a member of the Board] was nominated instead.”

Dugan also alleges that the Grammys staff is plagued by a culture of racial and gender-based discrimination, writing that previous Chief Information Officer Megan Clarke had been told she would be fired if she did not resign after complaining to HR about being harassed by a male board member.

Furthermore, Dugan states that, “by way of example,” one Black employee employed by the Grammy museum was fired “immediately” after she raised concerns about diversity within the Academy. A gay Black employee was also harassed “to the point that he had a mental breakdown,” with colleagues posting a demeaning picture of him with exaggerated lips in the office.

This is only a small sample of what Dugan alleges in her complaint. The entire, 46-page document can be read here.

Former Grammys CEO alleges rampant sexual misconduct, discrimination, corruption within the Grammys