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What we know about Mike Bloomberg and nondisclosure agreements

Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde February 21, 2020

If Your Time is short

  • Bloomberg during the debate said there were “very few” nondisclosure agreements and that they involved things he said, not actions. A Bloomberg L.P. spokeswoman told PolitiFact that there are no NDAs in which Bloomberg is a party, "only the company and individuals."

  • Several lawsuits contend that Bloomberg fostered a hostile workplace for women in the 1990s.

  • ABC News said it reviewed court records and found at least 17 women had taken legal action against Bloomberg’s company over the past 30 years.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren stood next to Mike Bloomberg on the debate stage in Las Vegas. It made her pointed questioning of him on whether his workplace was hostile for women all the more intense.

"The mayor has to stand on his record. And what we need to know is exactly what's lurking out there," Warren said. "He has gotten some number of women, dozens, who knows, to sign nondisclosure agreements both for sexual harassment and for gender discrimination in the workplace."

"So, Mr. Mayor," Warren continued, "are you willing to release all of those women from those nondisclosure agreements, so we can hear their side of the story?"

Bloomberg did not give in as the pair went back and forth on the issue.

"I've said we're not going to end these agreements because they were made consensually, and they have every right to expect that they will stay private," Bloomberg said during the Feb. 19 Democratic presidential primary debate.

Nondisclosure agreements, commonly called NDAs, are legally binding contracts that prevent parties from disclosing information. PolitiFact is not privy to those agreements, so we don’t know exactly what they detail. Still, we wanted to give readers an overview of the allegations made against Bloomberg and his company, Bloomberg L.P., based on available news reports.

What Bloomberg said about the nature of the NDAs

Bloomberg said there were "very few" NDAs and that they involved things he said, and not things he did.

"None of them accuse me of doing anything, other than maybe they didn't like a joke I told," Bloomberg said.

He suggested that his reluctance to end the NDAs was based on what other parties preferred. "The company and somebody else, in this case — a man or a woman, or it could be more than that — they decided when they made an agreement they wanted to keep it quiet for everybody's interests," Bloomberg said.

"There are no NDAs in which Mike is a party, only the company and individuals," Natalie Harland, a spokeswoman for Bloomberg L.P., told PolitiFact Feb. 21.
Harland said no one has approached the company asking to be released from the NDAs.
Bloomberg on Feb. 21 tweeted that his company had identified three NDAs "signed over the past 30+ years with women to address complaints about comments they said I had made." Bloomberg said that if any of them wanted to be released from their NDAs, they should reach out to the company.
Bloomberg's tweet linked to a statement posted to his campaign website.

"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's statement said.

He added: "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. 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."

Bloomberg also said he asked his company to consult with experts to review and reform policies "where necessary with regard to equal pay and promotion, sexual harassment and discrimination, and other legal tools that prevent culture change."

RELATED: Who is Michael Bloomberg? A bio of the Democratic presidential candidate

News reports on accusations against Bloomberg and his company

ABC News in January reported that the news organization reviewed court records showing that at least 17 women had taken legal action against Bloomberg’s company over the past 30 years.

Several lawsuits contend that Bloomberg fostered a hostile workplace for women in the 1990s, and three cases specifically claimed that Bloomberg made lewd remarks, such as "I'd like to do that piece of meat," and "I would do you in a second," ABC News reported.

Three active cases involve alleged misconduct between 2012 and 2016, and Bloomberg is a named defendant in two of those cases. One of those two cases involves a woman who accused her manager of sexual assault (the manager was fired before the lawsuit’s filing), and the other involves a former sales executive who accused the company of age and gender discrimination, according to ABC News. The third case is about a woman accusing the company of wrongful termination. Bloomberg and his company denied those allegations.

During a Jan. 15 appearance on "The View," Bloomberg said he had nothing to hide and that the nondisclosure agreements had to be respected.

"Did I ever tell a bawdy joke? Yeah, sure I did. Do I regret it? Yes, it's embarrassing," Bloomberg said. "But, you know, that's the way I grew up."

The Washington Post on Feb. 15 outlined an unspecified number of lawsuits against Bloomberg and his company filed over the years alleging discrimination against women.

The cases the Post reviewed did not involve accusations of inappropriate sexual conduct, but were about things Bloomberg said and the workplace culture he created. The story said Bloomberg was blamed for "creating a culture of sexual harassment and degradation."

The Post also told of a present Bloomberg got for his 48th birthday in 1990: a booklet titled "The Portable Bloomberg: The Wit & Wisdom of Michael Bloomberg." It included sexist quotes attributed to Bloomberg.

Bloomberg's spokesman told the Post both that Bloomberg "simply did not say the things somebody wrote in this gag gift" and that Bloomberg "openly admits that his words have not always aligned with his values and the way he has led his life and some of what he has said is disrespectful and wrong."

RELATED: Bloomberg on the defensive, fact-checking the Las Vegas Democratic debate

RELATED: The Stump Speech Analyzer: Michael Bloomberg

This story was updated Feb. 21 at 4:19 p.m. to include a statement and tweet posted by Bloomberg after our story published.

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What we know about Mike Bloomberg and nondisclosure agreements