Michael Bloomberg’s NDAs provoked a contentious exchange during the first Democratic presidential debate he appeared in, with Senator Elizabeth Warren in particular challenging Bloomberg on how many there were and urging him to release them.
Bloomberg didn’t answer the first question, and pointedly refused to release the non-disclosure agreements, insisting they were entered into by parties agreeing to privacy and that was consensual. That didn’t sit well with Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden, who indicated that Bloomberg could release the women in question from the NDAs (non-disclosure agreements). He also indicated that he had told a joke, seeming to minimize the allegations.
However, the day after the debate, Bloomberg revealed he would release three former female workers from their NDAS if they wanted it. He said they were signed “to address complaints about comments they said I had made.” He added, according to Fox News, “If any of them want to be released from their NDA so that they can talk about those allegations, they should contact the company and they’ll be given a release.”
Mike Bloomberg’s NDAs have been an issue for several weeks in the presidential race. Here’s the exchange with Warren on February 19, 2020.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. ABC News Counted 17 Cases Against Bloomberg’s Company
In December 2019, ABC News reported that Bloomberg has “on repeated occasions faced and fought allegations that he directed crude and sexist comments to women in his office.”
According to ABC, Bloomberg has been accused of using “lewd comments” that created a “frat-like” culture at his company, with quotes alleged in lawsuits such as, “I’d like to do that piece of meat,” and “I would DO you in a second.”
ABC was able to count at least 17 women in 30 years who took legal action against Bloomberg’s company, with three cases naming him individually. ABC reported that five were settled out of court, three are active, and no cases made it to trial.
“Mike Bloomberg has supported and empowered women throughout his career — from appointing women to the very top positions in his mayoral administration to supporting women candidates for higher office to an industry-leading 26-weeks of paid family leave at his company,” Julie Wood, a Bloomberg campaign spokesperson, told ABC News. “At the same time, Mike has come to see that some of what he has said is disrespectful and wrong. He believes his words have not always aligned with his values and the way he has led his life.”
2. Bloomberg Described the Allegations as Involving ‘Bawdy Humor’ on the View
Bloomberg discussed the NDA issue on The View before the topic came up in the Democratic debate.
According to ABC News, he described allegations involving him and his company as “bawdy humor,” and also said then that he wouldn’t release women from the NDAs.
ABC News reported then that “multiple women” have alleged that Bloomberg “fostered a hostile work environment for some female employees.” What specifically they alleged is not clear… because of the NDAs. Warren had previously told ABC News, “what is it that he has to hide?”
On the View, Bloomberg responded to that, saying, “We don’t have anything to hide. But we made legal agreements which both sides wanted to keep things from coming out. They have a right to do that.”
He added, according to ABC: “Did I ever tell a bawdy joke? Yeah, sure I did. Do I regret it? Yes, it’s embarrassing. But, you know, that’s the way I grew up.”
3. Gretchen Carlson Is Among Those Who Have Called on Bloomberg to Release the Women From the NDAs
One prominent voice also calling for Bloomberg to release the women from the NDAs: Gretchen Carlson, who famously went after Fox News for sexual harassment.
Journalist Kirsten Powers wrote on Twitter: “I’ll admit I’ve been pretty skeptical about a @MikeBloomberg candidacy but more and more people keep telling me how much they like him and they think he could be the person to beat Trump. Then last night even my mom said it. Any others out there who feel [the] same way?”
Carlson responded on Twitter: “Not until he gets on board to eradicate NDAs he made women sign at @business (Bloomberg) and join forces w/other Presidential candidates whove [sic] supported us/women at @LiftOurVoicesUS!” she responded. “Giving women their voices back is a must for our next Prez.”
4. One Former Employee Says She Felt Pressured to Sign an NDA & Another Alleges That Bloomberg Suggested She ‘Kill’ Her Child
According to Fox News, one woman is suing Michael Bloomberg’s company and alleging she “was subjected to a hostile and discriminatory work environment when she returned from cancer treatment.”
She felt pressured to sign a nondisclosure agreement, the network reported. Her name is Laurie Evans, and she was director of custom content at Bloomberg L.P. She claims she was mistreated after returning from breast cancer treatment. She alleges that a company CFO made her fire some women over 40.
She also says that she felt economic pressure to sign the agreement.
According to Vanity Fair, another woman subjected to an NDA was a former Bloomberg employee named Sekiko Sakai, who accuses Bloomberg of suggesting that she “kill it” when she told him she was pregnant. Bloomberg denies that claim. She is one of the people Bloomberg has now agreed to release from an NDA, according to The New York Post.
5. Bloomberg’s Campaign Is Seeking NDAs That Have Also Come Under Criticism
According to the Nation, Bloomberg’s campaign is using nondisclosure agreements that consist of language “that could prevent staffers from reporting workplace abuse.”
The site reported that the NDA is nine pages long and it stops employees from talking about “any and all non-public information” and “activities” by the campaign. This campaign NDA is not the agreement that caused the Democratic debate confrontation, however.
According to The Nation, some people believe the Bloomberg campaign NDA is “overly broad” and thus could stop people from reporting things like sexual harassment and racial discrimination.
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