Michael Bloomberg Will Release Some Women From NDAs If They Ask

Mark Niquette and Max Abelson
Michael Bloomberg Will Release Some Women From NDAs If They Ask

(Bloomberg) -- Michael Bloomberg said Friday that he is now willing to release women from three non-disclosure agreements related to offensive comments they say he made -- after refusing to do so at Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate.

“Bloomberg LP has identified 3 NDAs signed over the past 30+ years with women to address complaints about comments they said I had made. If any of them want to be released from their NDAs, they should contact the company and they’ll be given a release,” Bloomberg tweeted.

Bloomberg campaign spokesman Tim O’Brien said the three NDAs were the only ones that “involved Mike Bloomberg directly” and that other NDAs would not be lifted because “other people were involved” in those cases.

(Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)

One of the NDAs concerns a woman named Sekiko Sekai Garrison, who filed a complaint in 1995 alleging that Bloomberg told her to “kill it” when she told him she was pregnant, the Associated Press reported and a senior campaign aide confirmed.

Elizabeth Warren and other rivals criticized him for his refusal to release former employees from non-disclosure agreements that would allow them to publicly discuss their allegations against him.

Warren said Friday that Bloomberg’s announcement was insufficient and might not account for all the cases.

“That’s just not good enough. Michael Bloomberg needs to do a blanket release, so that all women who have been muzzled by non-disclosure agreements can step up and tell their side of the story,” she told reporters in Las Vegas.

“If there are only three then why didn’t he sign a blanket release? If he’s limiting the number, then you can’t know whether there are three, or 30, or 300. And that should not be in the control of Michael Bloomberg,” she added.

A Bloomberg campaign spokesman, Tim O’Brien, said on CNN that the three NDAs were the only ones that “involved Mike Bloomberg directly.”

Bloomberg also said he has changed his company’s policy about non-disclosure agreements.

“I’ve done a lot of reflecting on this issue over the past few days and I’ve decided that for as long as I’m running the company, we won’t offer confidentiality agreements to resolve claims of sexual harassment or misconduct going forward,” Bloomberg said in a statement posted on his campaign website.

“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.”

Bloomberg LP spokesman Ty Trippet referred questions to the Bloomberg campaign.

Cliff Palefsky, a veteran employment lawyer in San Francisco, said he couldn’t be sure that the three employees Bloomberg referred to are the only ones who might want to be released from non-disclosure agreements.

“Of course there may be many other cases against other senior people who believe their situations were mishandled or covered up by him,” Palefsky said.

The move comes as Bloomberg has faced a torrent of criticism for his debate performance and is trying to rebound before he first appears on a ballot on March 3, Super Tuesday.

“Bloomberg’s hand was obviously forced by Senator Warren’s comments at the debate, but the decision to grant these employees releases is nevertheless the right one,” said David Noll, who teaches at Rutgers Law School.

It’s unclear what comments Bloomberg allegedly made that led to the complaints included under the other two NDAs mentioned in his statement.

But over the years, news accounts have alleged a number of inappropriate remarks.

He is alleged to have said to a woman who announced her engagement, “What, is the guy dumb and blind? What the hell is he marrying you for?” Bloomberg has characterized some of his comments as “bawdy jokes.”

Warren has called on Bloomberg to release women from non-disclosure agreements they signed with his company if they want to speak publicly about allegations of crude remarks in the 1990s and a hostile work environment.

Warren repeatedly asked Bloomberg during the debate to release the women from the agreements. He refused, as he had in other campaign settings, saying parties to a legal agreement can’t walk away from it and “they signed these agreements and that’s what we’re going to live with.”

Bloomberg said none of the women who filed complaints against his company accused him “of doing anything other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told.”

On a CNN town hall Thursday night, Warren said that if Bloomberg did not release the women from their NDAs, then he “is disqualified from being president of the United States.”

(Adds comment from Bloomberg campaign spokesman, in third paragraph.)

--With assistance from Ryan Teague Beckwith and Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Niquette in Columbus at mniquette@bloomberg.net;Max Abelson in New York at mabelson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, Kevin Whitelaw

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