U.S. Attorney Conducting Criminal Investigation Into Fox News Sexual Harrassment Case Payouts

By A.J. Katz 

The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office is conducting a criminal investigation into 21st Century Fox and Fox News to find out if the company broke securities laws in the way it handled payments related to the sexual harassment case against former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, alleges an attorney who is representing former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros, in a suit against the company.

At a hearing in New York State Supreme Court Wednesday, Judd Burstein said during that one of his clients received a subpoena to testify in front of a federal grand jury about the case. “He was told by the U.S. Attorney’s office there is an ongoing criminal investigation, relating to these allegations, all of these allegations,” according to the New York Daily News.

Burstein said the subpoena didn’t involve Tantaros, but a different, unnamed, client.  NPR’s David Folkenflik writes that client “is almost certainly former Fox News senior vice president Brian Lewis, an aide, close adviser and enforcer for Ailes since his days running CNBC in the early 1990s.” Lewis, who was fired in 2013, settled with Fox News for a reported $8 million.

As for Tantaros’ case, she filed a lawsuit last August which claimed Fox News “operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency, and misogyny.” She named Ailes, the network and several senior executives in the lawsuit.

Tantaros’ suit seeks as much as $23 million, as well as $26 million in damages and reimbursement of lawyer fees.

Gretchen Carlson, who filed a lawsuit against the network in July and settled for $20 million and a public apology, and Tantaros appeared on various news programs last summer to talk about their experiences at Fox News. Tantaros said on Good Morning America that Ailes “sexually harassed me numerous times. I was walking to a taping once and just said simply hello to him, and he said, ‘We need to get you a tighter dress.’”

Folkenflik also reports that Burstein claimed there was “compelling evidence” Fox News conducted electronic surveillance against Tantaros. Folkenflik continues:

 “Privately, 21st Century Fox executives seethed Wednesday at Burstein’s allegations of illegal surveillance. They noted the claim’s emergence nearly six months after the Tantaros suit was filed and argued it was perfectly crafted to hit the company on a vulnerable subject.”

“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,” Fox said in a statement. “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.”