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There’s been a huge cultural change regarding executives’ office relationships in a little more than a decade. In 2005, when Boeing Co. asked chief executive Harry Stonecipher to resign after he’d had an extramarital affair with another executive, the Wall Street Journal wrote, “For a major U.S. corporation to boot a top executive because of romantic indiscretions, particularly if the affair is consensual, is rare indeed.”

Since the beginning of 2018, however, at least six CEOs of publicly traded companies have resigned after consensual relationships as companies take a tougher stand in an era of growing concern about workplace behaviour and potential liabilities. Most were with employees at their companies, but one was owing to a relationship with a company vendor.

Executives who have departed due to relationships:

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  • February 2018: Lululemon CEO Laurent Potdevin resigned after the company said “Mr. Potdevin fell short of [its] standards of conduct.” CNBC reported he had a multiyear relationship with a designer at the company who had served both as an employee and as a contractor.
  • June 2018: Intel Corp. says CEO Brian Krzanich had “a past consensual relationship with an Intel employee,” which was “a violation of Intel’s non-fraternization policy.”
  • July 2018: Texas Instruments says CEO Brian Crutcher resigned because of “violations of the company’s code of conduct. … The violations are related to personal behavior that is not consistent with our ethics and core values.”
  • December 2018: Kemet Corp. says CEO Per-Olof Loof resigned after a “consensual personal relationship between Mr. Loof and an employee of the Company and related actions which were inconsistent with the Company’s policies.”
  • February 2019: Outdoor retailer REI Inc. said CEO Jerry Stritzke resigned after the board investigated “a personal and consensual relationship between the REI CEO and the leader of another organization in the outdoor industry.”
  • November 2019: McDonald’s Corp. says Steve Easterbrook “has separated from the company following the Board’s determination that he violated company policy and demonstrated poor judgment involving a recent consensual relationship with an employee.”

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