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21st Century Fox will receive a $90m insurance payment and install a new oversight panel at Fox News in the latest fallout from a sexual harassment scandal at the cable news network that led to the ousting of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly.
The agreement settles a derivative lawsuit brought by a Fox shareholder on behalf of the company against its board and officers, including Rupert Murdoch, his sons James and Lachlan, and the estate of Ailes, who was Fox News chairman until last year and who died in May. The settlement, which still needs a judge’s approval, says the payment will be made to the company by insurers of the officers, directors and Ailes’s estate.
The settlement also calls for the creation of a “workplace professionalism and inclusion council” to monitor Fox News, strengthen reporting practices, improve human resources training and help with recruitment and advancement of women and minorities. The council will consist of two Fox human resources executives and four outside experts; they will submit written reports to the company’s board.
Fox News and its parent company have vowed to improve the culture at the cable network following accusations of sexual harassment by multiple women against Ailes and Mr O’Reilly, the channel’s star presenter, and claims of racial discrimination by other executives. Both men denied the claims. Many of the accusers have received financial settlements.
The scandal has threatened to derail Fox’s £11.7bn bid for full control of Sky, the European pay-television operator in which it holds a 39 per cent stake, a deal that is under scrutiny by UK regulators.
Fox publicly has reported paying more than $55m to settle claims of sexual harassment and racial discrimination.
The lawsuit was brought by the City of Monroe Employees’ Retirement System in Michigan, a Fox shareholder.
“For far too long, corporate leaders failed to act against harassing conduct in their midst by treating it as isolated incidents,” said Max Berger, attorney for the shareholder.
“The events giving rise to this case and the stream of reported misconduct by powerful individuals in the media industry and beyond show that corporate boards have an obligation to implement policies and structures that will protect current and future employees from the widespread improper abuse of the past.”