More details on WWE Board investigating Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis
WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon is being investigated by the WWE Board of Directors over a “secret $3 million settlement” that he reached with a former employee after the two allegedly had an affair. WWE Talent Relations head John Laurinaitis is also being investigated.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a January 2022 separation agreement bars the now-former employee from discussing her relationship with McMahon, or disparaging him, according to people familiar with the Board’s inquiry. The woman was hired to work as a paralegal in 2019.
The Board reportedly learned of the $3 million agreement in a serious of anonymous e-mails they received from someone who said they are a friend of the former WWE paralegal.
The first e-mail, sent to Board members on March 30, alleged that McMahon initially hired the woman at a salary $100,000 but increased it to $200,000 after beginning a sexual relationship with her. The e-mail also alleges that McMahon “gave her like a toy” to Laurinaitis. The Board is investigating these allegations from the e-mail.
“My friend was so scared so she quit after Vince McMahon and lawyer Jerry paid her millions of dollars to shut up,” the initial e-mail to the Board said, referring to McMahon’s longtime attorney Jerry McDevitt.
The directors received a copy of the $3 million agreement from one of McMahon’s lawyers on June 12, one person familiar with the inquiry said. The nondisclosure agreement provided an upfront payment of $1 million to the former employee, with the remaining $2 million to be doled out over a period of five years, said people familiar with the deal.
The former employee, age 41, had fallen on hard times before joining WWE and spoke of needing extra money, according to people who spoke with her while she worked at WWE. She said she had a law degree but had never taken the bar exam, telling co-workers that her career got sidetracked while she tended to a sick parent.
The former employee moved from the legal department in 2021 to become an assistant to Laurinaitis, according to the people familiar with the inquiry.
The Board’s investigation began in April and has reportedly unearthed other, older nondisclosure agreements involving claims by former female WWE employees of misconduct by McMahon and Laurinaitis, according to the people close to the situation. The Journal could not confirm how many previous agreements are being scrutinized.
The Board’s outside counsel was still collecting information about the other NDAs this week, but they have determined that the payments totaled in the millions of dollars, according to the people close to the situation.
The Board’s eight independent directors have retained NY-based law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP to conduct the investigation. The Board’s preliminary findings are that Vince used personal funds to pay the former female employees who signed the agreements, including one involving allegations against Laurinaitis. The law firm also is assessing WWE’s compliance and Human Resources programs, and company culture.
Near the outset of the inquiry, lawyers for the independent directors asked WWE, McMahon and Laurinaitis to turn over complaints or allegations about any relationships the executives may have had with company employees. In recent days, the investigators learned of the other nondisclosure agreements involving allegations against McMahon and Laurinaitis.
A WWE spokesman told The Journal that the company is cooperating fully with the Board’s inquiry, and that the relationship with the former paralegal was consensual. The rep added that WWE takes the allegations seriously and is dealing with them appropriately.
McMahon and Laurinaitis did not respond directly to requests for comment.
McDevitt, issued a letter to The Journal and said the former paralegal had not made any claims of harassment against McMahon, and that “WWE did not pay any monies” to the former employee “on her departure.”