21st Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOX) has reportedly headed off a lawsuit against its former leader with a settlement agreement said to be worth $20 million. Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed paperwork on Tuesday to dismiss her lawsuit against former Fox News chief Roger Ailes as a result of the settlement agreement. The complaint was first filed in New Jersey state court on July 6.
In the complaint, Carlson claimed she was fired from Fox News in retaliation for refusing Roger Ailes’ sexual advances. Carlson reportedly secretly taped some of her conversations with Ailes. During a meeting with Ailes, she says she was told, “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better.” After more than a year of taping, she had captured numerous incidents of sexual harassment.
21st Century Fox hired the outside firm of Paul, Weiss to conduct an investigation after Carlson filed a lawsuit. The investigation found others who said that sexual harassment occurred in the workplace, including Fox News star Megyn Kelly. Throughout the company, many knew that Ailes frequently made inappropriate comments to women and rumors swirled that Ailes had propositioned female employees for sexual favors. A culture of fear was cultivated so that no one would dare come forward.
More than two dozen women have since come forward to accuse Ailes of sexual harassment. Ailes was let go two weeks into the investigation with tens of millions of dollars in severance pay. Ailes’ attorneys deny that sexual harassment happened.
Before the Carlson lawsuit was settled, the parties fought over whether it belonged in open court or in arbitration. Fox News wasn’t named as a co-defendant in the lawsuit, but Fox agreed to indemnify Ailes by picking up legal costs. A 21st Century Fox Corporation news release did not specify the settlement amount but a person briefed on the settlement said that it amounted to $20 million. Ailes is reportedly responsible for a portion of the payment.
In a statement, 21st Century Fox apologized to the former Fox News host. The company said in the statement, “We sincerely regret and apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect and dignity that she and all of our colleagues deserve.” Carlson released a statement saying, “I want to thank all the brave women who came forward to tell their own stories and the many people across the country who embraced and supported me in their #StandWithGretchen.”
As part of the agreement, Carlson agreed not to bring further lawsuits against other network executives. However, the scandal over Ailes doesn’t go away with the settlement of Carlson’s lawsuit. Another Fox News host, Andrea Tantaros, has brought her own lawsuit against Fox News alleging a hostile work environment. A source claims that Fox News is in settlement talks with other women at the network.