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Bloomberg: 3 Women Who Made 'Complaints About Comments' Can Seek NDA Releases

Democratic presidential hopeful and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg looks on during a Democratic primary debate Wednesday in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Mark Ralston
AFP via Getty Images
Democratic presidential hopeful and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg looks on during a Democratic primary debate Wednesday in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Updated at 6:38 p.m. ET

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday that he will permit his company to release three women from nondisclosure agreements with his company, a reversal after resisting to do so under pressure from his rivals at a Democratic presidential debate earlier this week.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Bloomberg said that Bloomberg LP had identified three nondisclosure agreements made with women "to address complaints about comments they said I had made."

"If any of them want to be released from their NDA so that they can talk about those allegations, they should contact the company and they'll be given a release," the billionaire said in the statement. "I've done a lot of reflecting on this issue over the past few days and I've decided that for as long as I'm running the company, we won't offer confidentiality agreements to resolve claims of sexual harassment or misconduct going forward."

The carefully worded statement comes after Bloomberg faced a barrage of criticism over the issue from his Democratic rivals, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Warren reacted to Bloomberg's announcement, telling reporters it was "just not good enough" and that he needs to do a "blanket release" so that all "muzzled" women can tell their side of the story.

At Wednesday's debate, Warren had pressed Bloomberg on allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination, and on his company's use of NDAs.

"I'd like to talk about who we're running against, a billionaire who calls women 'fat broads' and 'horse-faced lesbians,' " she said in her opening comments of the debate. "And, no, I'm not talking about Donald Trump. I'm talking about Mayor Bloomberg."

The Bloomberg campaign denies he has made such statements.

Warren also specifically asked him whether he would release women from the agreements, and he declined.

"None of them accuse me of doing anything, other than maybe they didn't like a joke I told," Bloomberg said at the debate. "There's agreements between two parties that wanted to keep it quiet and that's up to them. They signed those agreements, and we'll live with it."

Warren continued her criticism of Bloomberg over the issue on Thursday. During a CNN town hall on Thursday night, Warren, who used to teach contract law, offered him a draft "release and covenant not to sue" document that would release his employees from the NDAs they signed.

TheWashington Post reported earlier this month that there have been several lawsuits filed over the years alleging that women had been discriminated against at Bloomberg's company. One former employee, according to the Post, blamed Bloomberg for fostering a culture of sexual harassment and degradation.

Bloomberg's statement appears limited in scope to three women. It does not release all of Bloomberg LP's current and former employees from nondisclosure agreements, nor does it release those who have signed nondisclosure agreements regarding harassment by people other than Bloomberg himself.

In his statement, Bloomberg said he's also asked his company's human resources team "to consult with experts, as I myself have done in recent days, and review and reform our policies where necessary with regard to equal pay and promotion, sexual harassment and discrimination, and other legal tools that prevent culture change."

He added that as president, he'd work to pass the Be Heard Act in Congress.

The legislation, which is sponsored by Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark (who's endorsed Warren), says it "sets forth provisions to prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace."

Claudia Grisales contributed to this report.

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Ben Swasey is an editor on the Washington Desk who mostly covers politics and voting.
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.