Michael Bloomberg said on Friday that three women—former employees of his media company—bound by non-disclosure agreements regarding his past conduct, can be released from the agreements if they wish.
The Democratic U.S. presidential candidate said in a statement that the agreements concern “comments they said” he “had made” and that the women should contact his company to be released from the NDAs.
Bloomberg, who runs the media conglomerate Bloomberg LP, also said that he was ending the company’s long-standing practice of requiring confidentiality agreements when reaching settlements with complaining employees.
“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 billionaire former mayor of New York said.
“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.
“It is imperative that when problems occur, workplaces not only address the specific incidents but the culture and practices that led to those incidents,” Bloomberg added. “And then leaders must act.”
Bloomberg, at the recent debate in Nevada, called the NDAs “consensual” and said women who complained “didn’t like a joke I told.”
Bloomberg’s statement comes after pressure from Democratic presidential rival Elizabeth Warren, who confronted Bloomberg at the debate in Nevada about his company’s record related to claims of workplace discrimination and harassment.
“The mayor has to stand on his record,” Warren said. “And what we need to know is exactly what’s lurking out there. He has gotten some number of women … to sign non-disclosure agreements both for sexual harassment and for gender discrimination in the workplace.”
Bloomberg’s company reportedly faced nearly 40 lawsuits involving 65 plaintiffs between 1996 and 2016, though it’s unclear how many relate to sexual harassment or discrimination, according to The Associated Press.
The next debate Bloomberg is scheduled to attend is on Tuesday in South Carolina. Bloomberg is also set to be on the ballot for the first time on March 3, known as Super Tuesday.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.