Brian France Q and A on lawsuit
Brian France, NASCAR's chairman and chief executive officer, met with reporters Saturday afternoon at Michigan International Speedway to discuss, primarily, a $225 million lawsuit filed by former Busch/Nationwide official Mauricia Grant. Here is a partial transcript of that session:
BRIAN FRANCE: I wanted to make a couple of comments regarding a couple of items that are in the news for us.
One of the comments is in respect to a lawsuit that was filed on Tuesday and a subsequent investigation we have under way to review those claims that were made. I think I mentioned earlier in the week that the most disappointing thing to me is that we found out about the alleged claims after you did in the media via a national lawsuit that seeks a lot of money.
That's very disappointing, because if any of those claims turn out to be accurate and have substance, we would have liked to have known about that two years ago so that we could have reacted and done something about it. It is inconsistent with anything from a policy standpoint of how a work environment for our officials should be. It is not consistent with anything - our values or what have you.
I would tell you the most disappointing thing that all of times that this plaintiff, Miss Grant, had in her time at NASCAR through diversity and sexual harassment seminars and training - our human resources people were explaining as we do multiple times during the year what our policy is and how the environment needs to be.
Everybody signs that and understands that and abides by that.
To have never, ever raised it other than in a lawsuit is disappointing to us. Nevertheless, we have started an investigation that is under way. We are treating in very seriously as we would when we have these types of investigations.
With thousands of employees and the nature of our business we're going to have claims that are made from time to time. It’s not uncommon for us. We investigate every one of these claims very thoroughly and we will continue to do that.
Q: Can you confirm that two of the people named in the lawsuit were placed on leave as part of the investigation?'
France: In our investigation we have put two officials on a leave of absence until we can complete more details and complete the investigation fully. That is correct. The two people have left for the weekend. (The Nationwide Series was scheduled to race Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.)
Q: Was there a meeting with officials in the Cup and Truck series in Michigan on Friday?
France: There was. We wanted to remind everyone about our policy. Everyone should be familiar, should be aware of how to conduct themselves. But we wanted to make sure once again of exactly what NASCAR's policy is in terms of behavior in either harassment or racial discrimination of any time. That was the nature of those reviews with our officials.
Q: What did you discover in your investigation in Kentucky that led to placing the two officials on leave?
France: The investigation is still ongoing. Obviously we found some violations in our policy. I would not jump to conclusions to assume that all the allegations that were made over the many months the plaintiff made are accurate. I would be very, very cautious to making that leap of faith even if we were to take action on any official in this investigation. We might discover something entirely different that may have been going on that has nothing to do with the claim in the lawsuit but still is a violation of our policy.
That would get you in trouble with us. That's the nature of investigations. They're very detailed. We're bringing in everybody we can find to give us the information of what is going on so we can be very clear in our findings.
Q: What does this do to the relatively clean reputation the sport has had? Is that reputation sliding?
France: I wouldn't characterize it as a sliding at all. We are a big sport with lots of participants at lots of different levels. The idea that everybody is going to act and behave perfectly is just not a reality that any of us lives in. Our job is to make sure that we have really good policies in place and to react very swiftly if our policies are violated.
We're going to do that. We found out about this on Tuesday with the filing of the suit. By Thursday we were in full investigative mode. We didn't wait. Some of these claims go back two years or longer.
Here again, it's very disappointing this was not brought to our attention if these things actually happened right when they happened so we could have investigated it right then and taken any action we needed to. And it didn't happen. It just didn't happen. She chose to make this about money and about a lawsuit and we'll deal with that.
Q: In the course of the investigation you've done over the past few days you've talked to supervisors that Miss Grant says she reported these things to. Are you saying that still you have not found evidence that she told anyone that this was going on?
France: She just didn't report anything to anybody. Quite the opposite, she was very pleased with her colleagues, Most of the comments that we have heard is she liked her job, enjoyed being there and liked the camaraderie with the other officials. We just have not found anyone she reported them to.
There's a very clear process you go through if there is any discrimination or harassment. Everybody in the company knows what it is and they have been trained to observe it and make sure the proper officials in the company are notified. Any employee who has an issue can e-mail me directly or certainly go to human resources. There are dozens of ways to report such and incident and it just didn't get reported.
Q: What does this do to the diversity efforts you and NASCAR have made? Does it affirm a perception that may be held outside the sport that NASCAR is a white man's sport?
France: Would we like to not have had a suit filed that makes these kinds of claims? Sure. Would we really have liked to been able to investigate it when these incidents occurred? You bet.
But we have to deal with what we have to deal with. The only thing I will say is that as all of the facts ultimately get on the table is not to jump to conclusions about what actually happened. That's why we do investigations and reviews. We will get to the bottom of it and nobody will jump to an improper conclusion.