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Major Companies Silent On Legislation To Open Up NDAs

BuzzFeed News reached out to top names in tech, media, and business to see if they support efforts to prevent settlement agreements from silencing victims of sexual harassment and assault at work. Only one, Vox Media, gave a definitive answer (yes) on the record.

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Lawmakers in three states are taking aim at the settlement agreements that they say enable serial harassers and predators in the workplace. A New York bill would void any employment contract or agreement that conceals claims of harassment, retaliation, discrimination, or other violations of employment law. And state legislators in California and New Jersey have said they're similarly interested in ending secret settlements in cases of sexual harassment.

These efforts come after the New York Times revealed that producer Harvey Weinstein has privately settled accusations of harassment, assault, and rape from multiple women over the course of decades. The accusations had circulated as rumors for years, but in many cases, women were prevented from speaking publicly because settlement agreements required them to be quiet.

Since then, an avalanche of accusations have accumulated against Weinstein. (He has denied that he in any instance engaged in nonconsensual sex.) And last week, the New York Times revealed that former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly in January agreed to pay a former analyst $32 million in one of a series of settlements he has made with women over the course of his career.

BuzzFeed News asked leading companies in California and New York if they supported legislation ending secrecy in sexual harassment settlements. Only Vox Media, gave a definitive answer — yes — on the record.

The New York bill, which was introduced earlier this month, would void any contract provision that allows an employer to employee to keep quiet about sexual harassment and discrimination claims. Here's what prominent New York companies had to say:

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2. JPMorgan Chase

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

3. Morgan Stanley

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

4. Citi

Citi declined to comment, saying, “We will review the legislation."

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5. Viacom

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

6. NBCUniversal

The company declined to comment. (NBCUniversal is an investor in BuzzFeed.)

7. The New York Times Company

The company declined to comment, saying, "As a general matter of policy, we do not take public positions on legislation that our newsroom may cover."

8. Conde Nast

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

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9. Dow Jones

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

10. Hearst

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

12. BuzzFeed

A spokesperson said, “While we have yet to review the legislation, BuzzFeed strongly supports in principle legislation that makes it easier to hold sexual harassers accountable for their actions.”

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14. Gizmodo Media Group

The company did not respond to a request for comment

15. Univision

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

The California legislation, which is expected to be introduced early next year by Democratic state Sen. Connie Leyva, would "ban secret settlements (confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements) in sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sexual discrimination cases." Almost all of the California-based companies BuzzFeed News reached out to either declined to comment or did not respond to multiple requests for comment about whether they would support such a bill:

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16. Walt Disney Studios

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

18. Warner Bros.

"We're open to it," said Paul McGuire, senior vice president of worldwide corporate communications.

19. Sony Pictures

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

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20. Netflix

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

22. Lionsgate

A spokesman for the company said it is "examining the issue."

23. MGM

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

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25. Wells Fargo

The company said it does not comment or take positions on pending legislation that has not yet been introduced.

26. Google

"We’ll review this bill when it’s drafted," a company spokesperson, speaking for Google as well as YouTube, its subsidiary, told BuzzFeed News.

27. Twitter

Twitter spokeswoman Brielle Villablanca wrote in an email to BuzzFeed News:

"We take all allegations of sexual harassment and other forms of workplace misconduct seriously, and investigate and respond as the circumstances merit. We have robust policies and processes in place, and we continue to review and improve upon these practices to best support our employees.

"That said, it would be premature to comment on legislation before it’s been drafted.”

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28. Pinterest

"We don't have anything to share at this time, but look forward to seeing the bill when it's introduced," Pinterest spokeswoman Malorie Lucich told BuzzFeed News.

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35. Palantir

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

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36. Airbnb

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

37. Salesforce

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

39. IBM

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

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40. Lyft

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

41. Oath

Oath, which owns Yahoo and AOL, and has dual headquarters in Manhattan, New York, and Sunnyvale, California, did not respond to a request for comment.

This post will be updated with any responses received after publication.

Claudia Koerner is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Claudia Koerner at claudia.koerner@buzzfeed.com.

Molly Hensley-Clancy is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact Molly Hensley-Clancy at molly.hensley-clancy@buzzfeed.com.

Davey Alba is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Davey Alba at davey.alba@buzzfeed.com.

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