Details about the coverage of the ongoing Vince McMahon investigation.
In June 2022, it was first reported by Joe Palazzolo and Ted Mann of the Wall Street Journal that WWE’s Board of Directors is investigating Vince McMahon for a secret settlement deal that was made with a former employee. They noted in the first report that the separation agreement worth $3 million involved a former paralegal who engaged in a sexual relationship with McMahon.
A spokesperson for the WWE told Wall Street Journal that the relationship was consensual. The former employee was hired at a salary of $100,000 and moved up to $200,000 after beginning the sexual relationship with McMahon.
Palazzolo and Mann guest appeared on Busted Open Radio to discuss their coverage and reporting of the ongoing investigation. Palazzolo said they’ve been working on this story since April.
Palazzolo: So we — sources told us, it was in April that WWE’s Board was investigating this three million dollar agreement with a woman who worked for [Vince] McMahon and so it basically took from April until we basically published our story to firm all that up, get additional sources and understand what it was the Board was doing.
That response from Joe was followed by Bully Ray asking why they decided to cover this story. Joe explained that the Wall Street Journal focuses on public companies and it’s a governance issue.
Ted Mann chimed in and said we’re operating in an environment where there is very little tolerance for that type of relationship between a company head and a subordinate.
Palazzolo: Well, a couple of reasons [why we decided to cover this story]. First of all, Wall Street Journal covers public companies, WWE is a public company. This is clearly a governance issue, right? We write for investors and when your Board of Directors is investigating something like this and I mean it’s pretty interesting, right? So the Board, which it’s a 12-member Board and four of those members are insiders, meaning that they work for the company and then the eight are independent but when it comes down to it, Vince [McMahon] controls the company essentially. So, there’s a governance issue. It’s important for our readers to understand what’s going on and then we sort of knew that these allegations while the company is saying that this is a consensual relationship that he had with this woman, we started hearing about other issues that were not consensual so, you know, we feel like those are things that need to be reported as well.
Mann: And I will just add one thing to that. As Joe said, it’s a public company and we’re operating in an environment where there is very little tolerance for any sort of relationship of this type between CEO or an Executive or someone who is a subordinate, even if it is consensual, because the power dynamic that exists there is something that has proved to be really dangerous for the more subordinate person in the company and so, that’s one of the ways in which all public companies have been representing that they’re not really going to allow things like this to be swept under the rug anymore and certainly in this case, when there’s something that was a total secret from the Board… some members of the Board for a long time, we find it interesting and that makes us wanna go digging and find out more.
In their second article, Palazzolo and Mann uncovered that McMahon agreed to pay over $12 million in cover-ups involving four women. Their latest findings read that there was a $7.5 million deal with a former WWE wrestler who alleged that McMahon coerced her into giving him oral sex before she was demoted.
Said wrestler’s contract expired in 2005 after resisting to continue the sexual encounters. Both Palazzolo and Mann said that was the most eye-catching information from their recent findings.
Mann: Joe, maybe I don’t wanna speak for you but, as we were reporting out what settlement agreements were existent, the fact that there was one for seven-and-a-half million dollars was fairly eye-popping. That’s a figure that, you know, in the murky world of NDAs, clearly suggests a big secret being kept and that was one of the red flags that seemed odd to us that we had to get to the bottom of what that was, what it was for.
Palazzolo: Yeah, I totally agree with Ted. Finding out that there was that $7.5 million agreement was really surprising. I mean, it shocked us. [The details] are pretty horrifying frankly. To coerce a sex act to then basically drive someone out of the company because they refused further advances as this woman has alleged, that’s all pretty terrible behavior.
To close out the discussion, Palazzolo responded to the question of if there could be more information on the horizon. He said it’s probably not done and they’ll continue reporting. Ted Mann added that like in similar cases, people who have something to share become more comfortable with speaking out once the initial story is out.
Palazzolo: Um… I think that yes. I think that it’s probably not done yet and we’re continuing to report, so yeah.
Well I can just say we don’t know of another $7.5 million N.D.A. if that’s what — like so… No. No, no, no [Palozzolo responded when asked if similar allegations are going to be uncovered]. All I’m saying is you’re asking [is there] something bigger than a 7.5? No. That’s not something we have in our back pocket. We sort of have left it all out on the field in this story and there’s a couple of things that we — that we didn’t that we’re still reporting now but you know, it’s iterative.
Mann: And sometimes it’s a case as happened in similar scandals elsewhere that there are people who have something to share who become a little more emboldened to talk about it once some of the first coverage has happened and you know, we’re still working to figure out if there are such people out there.
As more information concerning the ongoing investigation becomes available, we’ll continue to update you here on POST Wrestling. John Pollock, Wai Ting and David Bixenspan dove into the latest findings on the July 8th Daily News Update.
If the quotes in this article are used, please credit Busted Open Radio with an H/T to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions.