21st Century Fox Sets Up Anti-Harassment Panel

Group will advise Fox News on proper workplace environments
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21st Century Fox has formed a Workplace Professionalism and Inclusion Council at Fox News in order to settle a lawsuit from a shareholder complaining about the way sexual harassment allegations against former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes and host Bill O’Reilly were handled.

The Council was created through more than a year of engagement by 21st Century Fox with its shareholder, the City of Monroe Employees’ Retirement System, to address a complaint formally filed Monday by the shareholder in the State of Delaware. The matter has now been resolved by the parties, the company said.

The majority of the council will come from outside the company and will advise Fox News and its senior management on ensuring a proper environment for employees and guests.

It will also recommend ways to strengthen reporting practices for wrongdoing, enhance human resources training on workplace behavior and further recruitment and advancement of women and minorities.

“We are pleased to have resolved this matter with 21CF in a constructive way that will drive meaningful benefits for shareholders of 21CF and Fox News employees,” said Max Berger, Founding Partner, Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP. “The establishment of a majority independent council with the participation of senior HR executives from the company is a positive result that reflects a shared commitment from both sides to strengthen the workplace at Fox News.”

The council will report for the 21st Century Fox board and make written reports that will be posted on the company’s website.

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

The settlement also includes a payment to 21 Century Fox from insurance companies. Any court-awarded attorney’s fees and expenses will be subtracted from that total.

Last year, Ailes was removed as chairman of Fox News amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Bill O’Reilly was also fired last year after disclosures that he had spent more than $30 million settling with women claiming they’d been harassed by the host. More settlements by O’Reilly have been disclosed since he left Fox News.

Since then, 21st Century Fox has named a new global chief human resources officer, Thomas Gaissmair and a new head of HR at Fox News, Kevin Lord. Both will be members of the council.

The council’s four independent members are:

  • Honorable Barbara Jones, former judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, she runs a practice on corporate monitorships, compliance issues, internal investigations and arbitrations and mediations. Judge Jones chaired the Response Systems to Adult Sexual Assault Crimes Panel, created by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013, aimed at assessing the investigation, prosecution, and adjudication of sexual assaults in the military.
  • Brande Stellings, who leads Catalyst’s consulting services and corporate board services groups, guides organizations to accelerate the advancement of women through the pipeline to leadership.
  • Virgil Smith, who served as Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Diversity at the Gannett Company, is currently Principal Consultant of the Smith Edwards Group, LLC, and consultant for the Asian American Journalists Association.
  • Sylvia Ann Hewlett, PhD economist, Kennedy Scholar, Founder and CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation, and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, she has published 12 books and 14 Harvard Business Review articles.


NOTE: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Fox paid $90 million to settle the suit. Fox is receiving the payment from insurance companies.

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