An investigation by the WWE board of directors has uncovered a secret $3 million settlement paid out by chairman and CEO Vince McMahon to hide an affair with a former employee, according to the Wall Street Journal's Joe Palazzolo and Ted Mann.
The employee in question was reportedly hired as a paralegal in 2019 and eventually left after signing a separation agreement this January barring her from discussing the relationship.
The board's investigation reportedly began in April and has unearthed other nondisclosure agreements involving claims by former female WWE employees of alleged misconduct by McMahon and WWE executive John Laurinaitis. The payments reportedly total in the millions of dollars.
The preliminary finding of the board is reportedly that McMahon used personal funds to pay the former female employees. While McMahon is chairman of the board and has three other allies at the table, the investigation is being led by independent director Man Jit Singh. Singh and the other eight independent directors have reportedly retained law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP to conduct the investigation.
Board learned of alleged Vince McMahon affair, payments from anonymous email
The board reportedly learned of the $3 million agreement via a series of anonymous emails received from a person who said the paralegal was a friend.
As the emails laid out, the woman left after encounters with both McMahon and Laurinaitis.
From the Wall Street Journal:
The first email, sent to board members on March 30, alleged that Mr. McMahon, 76 years old, initially hired the woman at a salary of $100,000 but increased it to $200,000 after beginning a sexual relationship with her. The email to the board also alleged that Mr. McMahon “gave her like a toy” to Mr. Laurinaitis. The board is investigating the allegations in the email, the people familiar with the inquiry said.
“My friend was so scared so she quit after Vince McMahon and lawyer Jerry paid her millions of dollars to shut up,” the initial email to the board said, referring to Mr. McMahon’s longtime lawyer, Mr. McDevitt, who negotiated the deal, according to people familiar with the board inquiry.
A WWE spokesperson reportedly told the Journal the company is fully cooperating with the investigation and McMahon's relationship with the paralegal was consensual. McDevitt, McMahon's attorney, said the paralegal had made no claims of harassment against McMahon and the WWE paid no money to her "on her departure."
McMahon, who has helmed the WWE since 1982, is married to Linda McMahon, who was the company's CEO before pursuing a U.S. Senate seat and later becoming the head of the Small Business Administration under former President Donald Trump.