Bill O’Reilly, the former Fox News presenter, had a clause in his last contract that meant he could not be fired over harassment allegations unless they were proved in court.
Jacques Nasser, an independent director of Fox talked about the clause during a hearing with the Competition and Markets Authority in its investigation into 21st Century Fox’s £11.7bn (€13.2bn) takeover of Sky.
The revelation about O’Reilly’s employment agreement will increase concerns about 21st Century Fox’s handling of a sexual harassment scandal at Fox News. The scandal eventually led to the sacking of O’Reilly, who denies the allegations, and the departure of the late Roger Ailes, the former boss of Fox News.
The CMA is investigating the deal on the grounds of media plurality and commitment to broadcasting standards. The CMA’s record of the meeting with Nasser, former CEO of Ford, were published on Wednesday.
Nasser said that when the board of Fox was informed of several harassment allegations against Ailes it had not been made aware of them before and reacted “quickly”, with Ailes leaving within days and several other senior figures leaving in the following months.
However the situation was “different” when the board of Fox was informed of the allegations against O’Reilly. “This was in part related to there being an employment agreement with Bill O’Reilly which stated he could not be dismissed on the basis of an allegation unless that allegation was proved in court,” the CMA said of the meeting with Nasser.
Nasser admitted the board was aware that O’Reilly had made settlements with accusers but did not know the value of the settlements.