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21st Century Fox in $90 mln settlement tied to sexual harassment scandal
November 20, 2017 / 11:01 PM / in 23 days

21st Century Fox in $90 mln settlement tied to sexual harassment scandal

Nov 20 (Reuters) - Twenty-First Century Fox Inc has reached a $90 million settlement of shareholder claims arising from the sexual harassment scandal at its Fox News Channel, which cost the jobs of longtime news chief Roger Ailes and anchor Bill O‘Reilly.

The settlement, which requires a judge’s approval, resolves what are known as “derivative” claims against Fox officers and directors, including: Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan, who are Fox’s executive chairmen; James Murdoch, another son and its chief executive, and Ailes’ estate.

The defendants did not admit wrongdoing in agreeing to the settlement filed with the Delaware Chancery Court.

Monday’s settlement calls for insurers of Fox officers, Fox directors and Ailes’ estate to pay the $90 million to the New York-based company for the benefit of shareholders.

Fox will enhance governance and said it created the Fox News Workplace Professionalism and Inclusion Council to ensure a proper workplace environment, bolster training and further the recruitment and advancement of women and minorities.

The council has four independent members, including former federal judge Barbara Jones.

In a typical derivative case, shareholders sue in the name of a company to remedy wrongs inflicted by an alleged lack of oversight by a company’s officers and directors.

Ailes’ estate disputed many of the allegations in the settlement, which was reached before a complaint was formally filed, court records show.

“The Workplace Council gives our management team access to a braintrust of experts with deep and diverse experiences in workplace issues,” Jack Abernethy, co-president of Fox News Channel, said in a statement. “We look forward to benefiting from their collective guidance.”

Shareholders were led by the City of Monroe Employees’ Retirement System in Michigan. Their lawyer, Max Berger, said in a statement the accord would provide “meaningful benefits” for shareholders and Fox News employees.

The accord is not the first big derivative settlement involving a Murdoch-led company.

In 2013, former Fox parent News Corp reached a $139 million settlement of derivative claims that its board turned a blind eye to phone hacking at its London tabloids.

Two years later, the Delaware court approved a $275 million settlement involving “Call of Duty” videogame maker Activision Blizzard Inc over a stock sale by Vivendi SA.

The scandal at Fox began in July 2016 when former anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit accusing Ailes of harassment. O‘Reilly lost his job in April after being accused of harassment, and has denied wrongdoing.

Ailes died the next month. Fox faces other private civil litigation tied to the scandal.

The case is City of Monroe Employees’ Retirement System v Murdoch et al, Delaware Chancery Court, No. 2017-0833. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York, editing by G Crosse)

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