Independent probe clears Seven CEO Worner of 'misconduct'

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 3 February 2017
Seven West Media boss Tim Worner has been cleared of allegations of misconduct made by ex-lover and Seven West Media employee Amber Harrison (inset).

Seven West Media boss Tim Worner has been cleared of misconduct during and after an affair he had with former employee Amber Harrison, an independent investigation has found. The board has found no reason for further disciplinary action against the CEO.

The findings of the review were regarded as pivotal to Worner keeping his job.

It was led by Richard Harris, a litigation and investigations partner at law firm Allens Linklaters. The findings cleared Worner of any involvement in the way the company treated Harrison, the awarding of a bonus to Harrison and claims he influenced her to "misuse a company credit card".

It also cast doubt over allegations Worner had inappropriate relationships with four other employees that the investigation found were "falsely accused" and "vehemently denied". Harrison's allegations Worner took illicit drugs during their affair could "not be substantiated", the probe found.

The review looked into each of the key allegations of misconduct contained in the original statement including: the payment of a bonus to Harrison; the circumstances of the investigation into her corporate credit card expenses; the corporate credit card expenses of Worner and other allegations of drug use and their personal yet inappropriate relationship, which concluded in 2014; and allegations of other inappropriate staff relationships by Worner.

After receiving the report, Seven West Media's board concluded Harrison's allegations of misconduct were not substantiated and it is satisfied that:

  • the company's identification of significant credit card misuse by Harrison was not instigated by, or on behalf of, Worner or his office and they had no involvement in the investigation.
  • Worner did not influence, nor play any role, in the awarding of the bonus to Ms Harrison other than signing the letters which informed her, and other Executive Assistants, of their bonus.
  • company funds were not deployed in furthering the relationship by Mr Worner or with his approval. There were no irregularities in Worner’s corporate credit card use.
  • the strong and vehement denials by the four employees falsely accused of having an inappropriate relationship with Mr Worner are accepted without reservation and cast doubt on the veracity of other accusations.
  • the allegations of illicit drug use by Mr Worner could not be substantiated.
  • Worner did not have any involvement in the way the company.

Seven's board found no grounds to take any further disciplinary action against Worner beyond the action that was taken when the affair first came to light in 2014. 

It said that it found some of communications between Harrison and Worner as "highly personal nature that used language and expressed concepts that the board finds totally objectionable". However, the communications were private and "only disclosed as a result of a breach of express confidentiality obligations".

While accepting the findings of the probe, the board did offer this stark warning in a statement:

"The board has at all times made clear to Mr Worner that while the relationship, which concluded in July 2014, was personal and consensual, it was inappropriate given his senior position in the company and not behaviour condoned by the company.

"Mr Worner has been disciplined by the chairman and the board and provided an undertaking this behaviour will not be repeated, as well as an apology."

Although Worner has received the full backing of Seven's board and had his name cleared by an independent probe, it could still take time for him to clear his reputation in the court of public opinion. 

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