Recording Academy Quietly Settles With Ousted Ex-CEO Deborah Dugan

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Former Recording Academy President and CEO Deborah Dugan

Nearly 18 months after ousted Recording Academy head Deborah Dugan levied all manner of shocking allegations against the Grammys, she and the 64-year-old organization have quietly settled.

The Recording Academy placed Deborah Dugan on administrative leave just 10 days before the start of the 62nd Grammys, initially citing “a formal allegation of misconduct” from assistant Claudine Little, who’d worked under Neil Portnow when he led the Academy between 2002 and 2019.

However, it subsequently came to light that Dugan – who joined the organization in August of 2019 – had sent the HR department a firmly worded memo three weeks before being placed on administrative leave. This no-holds-barred document featured a number of stunning allegations, involving Grammys’ voting-process corruption, sexual harassment, and sexual-misconduct coverups, to name some.

Harvey Mason Jr. became interim president and CEO of the Recording Academy following Dugan’s exit – assuming the roles on a permanent basis last month – and the short-lived Grammys head in late January filed a shocking complaint, covering the aforementioned allegations as well as different claims yet. Dugan was officially fired in March of 2020, though the far-reaching effects of her statements remain apparent at the Academy.

And now, after blocking access to the corresponding arbitration hearing, the Recording Academy has officially finalized a settlement agreement with Deborah Dugan.

The involved parties acknowledged the settlement via a brief, widely circulated statement, relaying: “The Recording Academy and Deborah Dugan have agreed to resolve their differences and to keep the terms of their agreement private.”

Maintaining the “private” nature of the deal, neither the specifics of their talks nor the actual settlement terms had been publicly disclosed at the time of this piece’s publishing. Similarly, Dugan – who currently holds an executive position at New York City-based Handshake Consultants – hadn’t addressed the matter on social media, though the former EMI Records higher-up has retweeted several pieces about rule changes and shakeups at the Recording Academy.

Said rule changes and shakeups appear poised to continue arriving in the coming months (and possibly years), for Mason Jr., upon dropping “interim” from his title, vowed to proceed with the Recording Academy’s “transformative journey.” To be sure, following 2020 Grammys boycotts from artists including Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, the Recording Academy hired a “chief diversity officer” (who will soon start as co-president), removed the word “urban” from award categories, made substantial layoffs, and more.

Despite managing to avoid continued boycotts from Beyoncé and Swift, however, the Grammys weren’t without high-profile complaints before the 2021 edition, for The Weeknd and Halsey criticized the event and the Recording Academy after receiving zero nominations notwithstanding the commercial success of their After Hours and Manic efforts, respectively.

On this front, the Recording Academy last month voted to end Grammy “nominations review committees” and implemented a series of additional rule changes. But it remains to be seen whether these and other transparency-minded pivots will help to reverse the happening’s years-running viewership and ratings falloff, for the 63rd Grammys suffered a 53 percent year-over-year decline in watchers and a 61 percent YoY dip in the ratings department. Both figures were record lows, and the 2022 Grammys are slated to take place on a Monday.

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