WASHINGTON – Two days after political rivals excoriated him about the issue during the debate in Las Vegas, Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg has agreed to release three women from confidentiality agreements his company signed related to comments they accused him of making.
After refusing on the debate stage to make those "nondisclosure agreements" (NDAs) public, the former New York City mayor has directed his namesake media company to review the use of such contracts and approve their release.
"They've identified 3 NDAs that we signed over the past 30-plus years with women to address complaints about comments they said I had made," the billionaire businessman said in a statement. "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."
Bloomberg said he had done "a lot of reflecting on this issue over the past few days" and pledged his company would no longer offer confidentiality agreements to resolve claims of sexual harassment or misconduct. Nondisclosure agreements are a legally binding contract often used by businesses to pay employees not to speak about a host off issues including sexual harassment and competitive business practices.
"I recognize that NDAs, particularly when they are used in the context of sexual harassment and sexual assault, promote a culture of silence in the workplace and contribute to a culture of women not feeling safe or supported," he said. "It is imperative that when problems occur, workplaces not only address the specific incidents, but the culture and practices that led to those incidents. And then leaders must act."
The billionaire businessman is not competing in Nevada but many political analysts say his shaky performance on the debate stage Wednesday, where he was confronted about the agreements, could stunt his surge in the polls that have been fueled by his aggressive television ad campaign in key states.
In a testy exchange during the Las Vegas debate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., pressed Bloomberg about women who worked for him being subject to non-disclosure agreements that made them unable to talk about harassment and abuse in the workplace. Earlier in the debate, Bloomberg had been asked about some of his past comments about women and the way women were treated at his company.
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Bloomberg said his company, Bloomberg LP, had “no tolerance for the kind of behavior the MeToo movement has exposed. And anybody that does anything wrong in our company, we investigate it, and if it's appropriate, they're gone that day."
“I hope you heard what his defense was: ‘I’ve been nice to some women,’” Warren shot back. "The mayor needs to stand on his record.”
Both Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden called on Bloomberg to release women from the non-disclosure agreements. Bloomberg declined.
“They decided, when they made an agreement, that they wanted to keep it quiet for everyone’s interest,” Bloomberg said.
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ABC reported that numerous former employees have filed lawsuits against Bloomberg or Bloomberg LP. The outlet also reported it had spoken to "several" women who feared telling their stories publicly.
One, who did not sign an NDA but requested anonymity from ABC, told the outlet she was "sidelined" for her pregnancy. "Going to work was uncomfortable, everything was awful at that time," she said. "It was the worst thing that has ever happened to me."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mike Bloomberg: Confidentiality agreements with three women can be released