The Chairman and CEO of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), Vince McMahon, is under investigation for allegedly paying a female employee $3 million to keep their relationship a secret.
The settlement signed in January 2022 prohibited the now-ex employee, 41, who was initially hired as a paralegal in 2019, from revealing her love affair with McMahon or denigrating him in any way.
As per WWE staff, the 41-year-old employee had not taken the bar exam but had a law degree. She became the assistant of WWE's Head of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis in 2021 after working in the legal department, Wall Street Journal reported.
The 8-member board of directors came to know about the agreement when the former employee's friend sent them anonymous emails detailing the entire situation. In one them it was revealed that McMahon hired the woman at a salary of $100,000 but as their affair started it was doubled to $200,000.
McMahon was accused of paying the woman millions of dollars to keep her mouth shut after she quit. The emails also mention the involvement of John Laurinaitis in sexually assaulting the woman. Her friend claims that McMahon "gave [the employee] like a toy" to Laurinaitis.
"My friend was so scared so she quit after Vince McMahon and lawyer Jerry paid her millions of dollars to shut up," she wrote.
The investigation, which is currently conducted by a New York-based law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP retained by the board members, began in April. Shocking discoveries were made in the early stages as more and more Non-Disclosure Agreements with claims of misconduct by former female employees were found.
According to people familiar with the matter, the board's outside counsel is still gathering more information and believes that the totality of the payments was "in millions of dollars," WSJ reported.
Initial findings suggest that the WWE Chairman had utilized his personal funds to pay all the ex-female employees who signed the NDAs. These also include the ones with allegations against Laurinaitis. The exact number of NDAs discovered by the board has not been confirmed yet.
McMahon's attorney Jerry McDevitt has continuously denied the accusations against his client. In a letter to the WSJ, the attorney wrote that "WWE did not pay any monies" to the ex-employee when she quit.
It is however interesting to note that the board which decided to go ahead with the investigation, previously included McMahon's daughter Stephanie McMahon and her husband Paul Levesque a.k.a wrestler Triple H.
Last month, in a surprise announcement, Stephanie stated that she will be taking 'a leave of absence' to focus on her family. The wrestling world was 'floored' by her decision to step away from her family's company, but she emphasized that would return eventually.
Triple H on the other hand, recently came back to WWE offices after taking a short break following a major cardiac arrest in 2021.
It is not clear if Stephanie or Triple H had any prior information about this matter before they announced their hiatus and no official confirmation has been made yet.
In case of the WWE's response, the company has just acknowledged the ongoing investigation and has pledged its 'cooperation' with the authorities.
"The Wall Street Journal has published a report about WWE with allegations that we and our Board of Directors take seriously. We are cooperating fully with the independent investigation initiated by our Board of Directors," a spokesperson told WSJ.