Fox News Channel made an appearance today in corporate filings submitted by parent 21st Century Fox. The price tag is at $45 million since Roger Ailes was canned last summer following numerous and explosive allegations of extremely inappropriate behavior.The financial fallout from the sexual harassment claims and lawsuits piling up at
“Other for the three and nine months ended March 31, 2017 included approximately $10 million and $45 million, respectively, of costs related to settlements of pending and potential litigations following the July 2016 resignation of the Chairman and CEO of Fox News Channel after a public complaint was filed containing allegations of sexual harassment,” said a section deep within the Quarterly Report (read it here) that 21st Century Fox submitted to the SEC on Wednesday. The total figure for the ‘Other’ category over the nine months that ended at the end of March is $71 million.
My colleague David Lieberman reported earlier today that 21st Century Fox also noted in its quarterly report that it has “received regulatory and investigative inquiries relating to these matters and stockholder demands to inspect the books and records of the Company which could lead to future litigation.” As civil suits from Fox News on-air talent, past and potential contributors and others swirl, prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan and criminal investigators from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are looking into what went on at FNC in these matters, who was paid what, and where it ended up in the books.
“Due to the early stage of these matters, the amount of liability, if any, that may result from these or related matters cannot be estimated at this time,” the filing today goes on to say in bloodless corporate speak. “However, the Company does not currently anticipate that the ultimate resolution of any such pending matters will have a material adverse effect on its consolidated financial condition, future results of operations or liquidity.”
The key word, as it has been for a while in this, being “anticipate” — that being what Fox has not been good at the past nine months.
At what Fox surely hoped was the end of the matter but really became the prologue in many ways, Ailes was shown the door by Rupert Murdoch and his sons James and Lachlan on July 21 last year soon after former Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson sued him for sexual harassment. Ailes was said to have received a $40 million golden goodbye from the Murdochs, which does not seem to be reflected in today’s filing. In September, Carlson came to a $20 million settlement with Fox and dropped her legal action. That payout is surely part of the $45 million noted in today’s filing. Read the rest of this entry »
Fox News’ handling of the renewed harassment allegations is a reflection of greater company conflicts and a generational shift as Rupert hangs on to a bygone era and James and Lachlan plot a risky new course.
Michael Wolff reports: Last July, after Gretchen Carlson sued the Murdoch-controlled 21st Century Fox and Roger Ailes, the then-head of Fox News Channel, for sexual harassment, Rupert Murdoch told his sons, both Ailes enemies, that paying off Carlson without a fight would mean more lawsuits. Easy-money settlements always bring more claims. James and Lachlan Murdoch, however, were eager to get rid of their nemesis, and the most direct way to do that was to accept Carlson’s claims after a quickie investigation and then use a big payoff — $20 million — to end the dispute and calm the storm.
Nine months later, the chickens coming home to roost, Fox has continued to collect a string of look-alike claims against Ailes and against ratings giant Bill O’Reilly, with a firestorm of recent press attention on what The New York Times is calling the “O’Reilly revelations.” What has been revealed is not evidence nor an admission of guilt but details of payments settling complaints against O’Reilly — not a small distinction. You can assume maximal guilt, which the Times and other Fox haters do, or you can assume, as many lawyers do, that when there is money to be had, plaintiffs come out of the woodwork. (“Coming out of the woodwork” is a virtual term of art in big settlement tort cases).
Murdoch Senior is said to be saying, “I told you so.” James, CEO of 21st Century Fox, is blaming it on the Fox News culture and has hired Paul Weiss, the same law firm that performed a two-week investigation of Ailes, to probe O’Reilly (there is, too, a Department of Justice investigation of how settlement payments were made, which Rupert dismisses as DOJ liberal politics and which his sons see as indicating more Fox News dark arts). This is a reflection of greater family and company interests and conflicts. Read the rest of this entry »