The Justice Department is investigating whether Fox News failed to let shareholders know about settlements made with employees who made charges against former chairman and CEO Roger Ailes with sexual harassment.
CNN is reporting that the investigation – which has been going on for months – was discovered Wednesday after lawyer Judd Burstein, who is representing the sexual harassment clients, announced in a court hearing that one of his clients received a subpoena related to “violations of criminal law by Fox.”
“I was told by the U.S. attorney’s office there is an ongoing criminal investigation, relating to these allegations, all of these allegations,” Burstein said, according to The New York Daily News. The subpoena, which was issued by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office, included “alleged violations of criminal law by Fox,” Burstein said.
A spokesman for Fox News admitted the company had been in “communication” with the U.S. Attorney’s office, but did not specify the nature of the investigation.
“Neither FOX News nor 21st Century Fox 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,” the spokesperson said.
Burstein was in court representing former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros on sexual harassment claims she has made against Ailes and Fox News. Burstein did not identify which one of his clients received the subpoena, but said he believed Tantaros would receive one as well.
In a court motion filed last August seeking to compel arbitration of Tantaros’ claim, Fox News alleged that she “is not a victim; she is an opportunist.”
Responding to Burstein’s comments on Wednesday, the Fox News spokesperson noted that Tantaros’ case had been moved to arbitration, and accused Burstein of “histrionics.”
“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,” the spokesperson said.
Fox News has settled sexual harassment complaints by several women, including a reported $20 million settlement with former Fox anchorwoman Gretchen Carlson.