After a chaotic period of revelations of and complaints about sexual harassment and discrimination at its Fox News operations, 21st Century Fox said it had created a workplace council at the unit to advise senior management on matters ranging from workplace environment and recruitment to advancement of women and minorities.
The move comes after more than a year of responding to multiple shareholders who contacted Fox to express concerns about Fox News and the various legal entanglements that had arisen since the ouster of former Fox News chief Roger Ailes in the summer of 2016.
21st Century Fox said the matter had been resolved through creation of the new workplace group, and said it would receive a payment of $90 million, less fees and expenses awarded by the court to attorneys, from third-party insurers, as a result. Ailes, who died earlier this year, had denied multiple claims of sexual harassment levied at him by former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson and several other female employees of and female contributors to Fox News.
“We are pleased to have resolved this matter with 21CF in a constructive way that will drive meaningful benefits for shareholders of 21CF and Fox News employees,” said Max Berger, founding partner at Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP, a law firm representing the City of Monroe Employees’ Retirement System, a 21st Century Fox shareholder. “The establishment of a majority independent council with the participation of senior HR executives from the company is a positive result that reflects a shared commitment from both sides to strengthen the workplace at Fox News.” Multiple 21st Century Fox shareholders had joined in the complaint.
The council, composed of experts from outside the company as well as human-resources personnel from 21st Century Fox, will report to a committee of the company’s board of directors and provide written reports that will be posted on the corporation’s website.
“The Workplace Council gives our management team access to a brain trust of experts with deep and diverse experiences in workplace issues,” said Jack Abernethy, co-president of Fox News Channel, in a statement. “We look forward to benefiting from their collective guidance.”
The four independent members of the new council are Barbara Jones, a former judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York,who advises on compliance issues and internal investigations as well as arbitration and mediation; Brande Stellings, who consults with organizations to hasten the advancement of women into leadership roles; Virgil Smith, a former vice president of talent acquisition and diversity at Gannett who works as a consultant; and Sylvia Ann Hewett, founder of the Center for Talent Innovation. Thomas Gaissmaier and Kevin Lord, wo new human resources executives at 21st Century Fox and Fox News, respectively, will also serve on the council.
Fox News has in recent months been in the midst of an executive and programming shakeup. New female executives have been named to supervise the CFO role and advertising sales. In recent weeks, Fox News unveiled a new programming lineup that features more women than it has in the past. Laura Ingraham took over the network’s 10 p.m. slot and Shannon Bream launched a new show at 11 p.m.