When the Murdoch clan forced Roger Ailes to leave Fox News and 21st Century Fox (but remain as a consultant until 2018), they no doubt thought they were being their usual clever selves by greasing his exit with a US$40 million payment. But now, New York magazine is reporting that 21st Century Fox executives and auditors are finding that Ailes spent millions of dollars of the company’s money paying off women who had complained about sexual harassment, monitoring and harassing critics of Ailes, and running a so-called black ops against them. New York magazine, quoting what it said were three separate sources, said this was done without the knowledge of anyone at 21st Century Fox.

And investigations have started into another New York magazine report from late last week on how Ailes was able to use Fox News money to buy the silence of a woman who complained about him, without the deal coming to the attention of 21st Century Fox management and board, seeing the package was worth more than $US3.1 million. The woman concerned, Laurie Luhn, was a guest booker for Fox News. She claimed Ailes had sexually harassed her for 20 years. She was paid a severance package in 2011, before the Murdoch empire was split into News Corp and 21st Century Fox.

The Financial Times reported:

“‘A settlement of that size that involved a complaint against Roger Ailes would hopefully have come to the attention of senior officials of 21st Century Fox,’ says Charles Elson, director of Center for Corporate Governance, University of Delaware. ‘That it didn’t from a controls standpoint raises concerns.’ John Coffee, director of the Center on Corporate Governance at Columbia University Law School, says Fox’s auditors should have known about the payment. ‘This should have gone up to the audit committee very quickly. It should have been looked at.'”

If this story is true, Fox faces possible investigation by US corporate regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission as to why the settlement wasn’t included in the accounts and who enabled it to be omitted and why. The claimed cover-up should be of considerable interest to the Murdochs, especially co-chair Lachlan Murdoch who is in Australia for the News Corp faux in-house Walkley Awards to company journalists.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey