The attorney representing Andrea Tantaros claims that her former employer, Fox News, is under federal criminal investigation.
As yet unsubstantiated, the issue allegedly seems to be whether Fox News or its parent company, 21st Century Fox, properly disclosed sexual harassment payouts to several employees in required Securities and Exchange Commission filings or tried to hide the settlements from shareholders in an alleged violation of federal law.
Tantaros’ lawyer, Judd Burstein, claims that one of his other clients, as yet unidentified, was subpoenaed to a federal grand jury as part of a supposed probe by the U.S. Attorney the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, the New York Daily News reported.
“The investigation centers on whether Fox’s settlement payments to women alleging harassment were so material that they should have been disclosed to investors, according to a person familiar with the matter who declined to be named because details of the probe aren’t public,” Bloomberg explained.
In a win for Fox News yesterday, a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled that Tantaros’ claims against the network will go to closed-door, binding arbitration rather than get sorted out in open court, as stipulated in her contract, which is standard in the industry.
A Fox News spokeswoman responded to the attorney’s allegations that came up at the court hearing, the Hill noted.
“The court granted FOX News’ motion to send Andrea Tantaros’ case to arbitration, where it always belonged, and rejected her counsel Judd Burstein’s histrionics. Apparently one of Mr. Burstein’s other clients has received a subpoena. Neither FOX News nor 21CF has received a subpoena, but we have been in communication with the U.S. Attorney’s office for months — we have and will continue to cooperate on all inquiries with any interested authorities.”
Attorney Burstein also charges that Fox was spying on his client, according to NPR, while Fox executives asserted that the electronic surveillance allegation emerged “nearly six months after the Tantaros suit was filed and argued it was perfectly crafted to hit the company at a vulnerable time.” Burstein plans to file a separate legal complaint about the alleged snooping, USA Today detailed.
Tantaros, 38, the popular ex-Outnumbered co-host, has been off the air since late April of 2016, which blocked her from providing analysis about the most unusual presidential election in U.S. history, something that in general can’t be good for any media pundit’s career or brand. The suspension also torpedoed the promotional launch of the fan favorite’s book Tied Up in Knots, a publication that figures prominently in the dispute.
In August, Tantaros sued Fox News, former CEO Roger Ailes, and four other FNC defendants, claiming that the TV channel retaliated against her in the workplace for complaining to high-level executives there about alleged sexual harassment by Ailes. In legal papers, Tantaros characterized the network as a “Playboy Mansion-like cult” and also leveled accusations of misbehavior at other Fox News personalities. Part of the retaliation allegedly was in the form of a demotion from the higher-rated The Five to Outnumbered.
Ailes and Fox have denied the allegations, and the channel insists that the suspension came because Tantaros failed to get pre-approval for her book manuscript and that Tantaros never lodged internal complaints about sexual harassment.
In its response to the lawsuit, Fox also claimed that she was an “opportunist” and a “wannabe” sexual harassment victim.
The network kept Andrea on the payroll, however, until October of 2016, when she appeared on Good Morning America to discuss the sexual harassment accusations, which violated a contractual confidentiality provision.
Andrea Tantaros apparently has previously rejected a seven-figure settlement offer from Fox.
[Featured Image by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP Images]