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Bloomberg says his company will release 3 women from nondisclosure agreements

After mounting pressure, Bloomberg says he’ll let three women who had complained about his past comments speak out.

Mike Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren on stage at the February 19 Democratic debate in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

Mike Bloomberg’s slogan is that he can get it done. But actually, maybe it’s Elizabeth Warren who can. At least when it comes to forcing the former New York City mayor’s hand on releasing women who have complained about his past comments from nondisclosure agreements.

On Friday, Bloomberg announced that his company, Bloomberg LP, had identified three NDAs signed by women related directly to remarks he allegedly made and that it would release them if they wanted. He also said that Bloomberg will no longer offer confidentiality agreements to resolve sexual harassment or misconduct complaints.

“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,” he said in a statement. “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 has come under increasing scrutiny over his and his company’s history with women. As Vox’s Anna North explained, there have been several reports in recent months examining allegations that Bloomberg’s company fostered a climate of sexual harassment and discrimination and that Bloomberg himself had “set the tone with belittling, sexist, and objectifying comments about female employees.”

Bloomberg has acknowledged he’s told some “bawdy jokes” that he regrets and sought to minimize the issue. But, he also refused to release women from NDAs so they could talk about their allegations — until now.

During Wednesday’s Democratic debate in Nevada, the issue came to a head, namely thanks to Sen. Warren, whose clear distaste for Bloomberg was evident throughout the evening. After a moderator asked about Bloomberg’s past comments about women, the billionaire talked about his past of giving women top positions in his philanthropy operation, his company, and his mayoral office and said he has “no tolerance for the kind of behavior that the Me Too movement has exposed.”

Warren wasn’t having it. “I hope you heard what his defense was: ‘I’ve been nice to some women.’ That just doesn’t cut it,” she said. “The mayor has to stand on his record. And what we need to know is exactly what’s lurking out there. 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.”

Backed up by former Vice President Joe Biden, Warren called on Bloomberg to release women from the nondisclosure agreements on the debate stage, but he declined at the time. And she didn’t let it go — during a town hall in Nevada on Thursday, Warren, a former law professor, brought up an NDA release she’d written up for Bloomberg if he wanted it.

”I used to teach contract law,” she said. “And I thought I would make this easy. I wrote up a release and covenant not to sue, and all that Mayor Bloomberg has to do is download it —I’ll text it — sign it, and then the women, or men, will be free to speak and tell their own stories.”

To be sure, Bloomberg releasing a handful of women from the requirements of nondisclosure agreements doesn’t solve the entire issue of his and his company’s past treatment of women, and it doesn’t ensure everyone who’s had problems will be heard. In his statement, Bloomberg also said he had instructed his company and campaign to review their harassment, discrimination, and promotion policies. He also said that as president, he would push for the passage of the Be Heard Act, a sweeping anti-harassment bill in Congress.

Perhaps more crucially to the Bloomberg campaign, his announcement also allows him to move past the issue somewhat and to set himself apart from President Donald Trump. It seems like a win for people who work at Bloomberg LP — and for Elizabeth Warren.