Alleged sexual harassers like Bill O'Reilly and Harvey Weinstein could lead to a boom in a $2 billion industry

  • Many sexual harassment allegations against powerful men have emerged recently, from Bill O'Reilly to Harvey Weinstein.
  • Billy O'Reilly's latest settlement to become public is one of the largest at $32 million.
  • To protect against the financial risk of sexual harassment, companies are purchasing employee practices liability insurance — a $2 billion industry with room to grow.

Sexual harassment comes at a cost.

If recent headlines are any indication, settlement agreements — deals typically made behind closed doors in exchange for dropping the claims — can be particularly expensive.

Bill O'Reilly reportedly paid $32 million to Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl in a sexual harassment settlement reached earlier this year. In 2016, 21st Century Fox paid Gretchen Carlson $20 million to settle her suit against former Fox News chairman and CEO, the late Roger Ailes. Harvey Weinstein paid off accusers throughout his career, including a $100,000 settlement to actress Rose McGowan.

These numbers don't come out of thin air. Settlement amounts are based on many factors, including wrongful termination and retaliation if any. The alleged harasser may foot the bill, like in the case of Bill O'Reilly and Lis Wiehl, but the employer could be on the hook as well.

Companies have taken note.

A growing number of businesses, from Fortune 500 companies to small employers, are opting to purchase employee practices liability insurance (EPLI) to protect the company and its executives from employment-related claims, ranging from sexual harassment to racial or disability discrimination. When human resources trainings fall short and employee rights are violated, EPLI policies limit the financial downside.

35 PHOTOS
Women who have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault
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Women who have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault
Paz de la Huerta, who stars on HBO's 'Boardwalk Empire,' claims Harvey Weinstein raped her on two separate occasions in 2010: "I was in no state. I was so terrified of him," she told Vanity Fair. "I did say no, and when he was on top of me, I said, 'I don't want to do this' ... It was disgusting. He's like a pig."
British actress Lysette Anthony has publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of raping her in her home in the late 1980s.
Amber Anderson said Harvey Weinstein 'behaved inappropriately' and bragged about other actresses he had 'helped' in exchange for sexual favors.
Natassia Malthe has accused Weinstein of raping her in a hotel room. On a separate occasion, after she was assured that Weinstein would not come onto her, she was allegedly escorted to Weinstein's hotel room by an assistant. In the room was another woman, who performed oral sex on Weinstein whil he asked Malthe to join.
Lupita Nyong'o wrote a detailed essay for the New York Times recounting multiple incidents with Weinstein, including an evening during which he asked her to give him a nude massage while his family was in the same home.
Marisa Coughlan said that she planned to meet Weinstein for a meeting at his hotel. Instead, he requested a massage.

Heather Graham said Weinstein told her he had an agreement with his wife that allowed him to sleep with whomever he wants. He then asked him to meet her to discuss a film project at his hotel, falsely telling her that her friend would also be present. She declined.

French actress Judith Godreche has accused Weinstein of inappropriately pressing up against her, trying to remove her sweater and asking for a massage.

Lauren Holly said that during a seemingly normal meeting with Weinstein to discuss a project, he began disrobing, got into the shower, and went to the bathroom while continuing to converse with her. He then allegedly asked her for a massage. She fled. 
Angie Everhart said that she was sleeping in her own cabin on a yacht when Harvey Weinstein entered, blocked the door and began masturbating. He told her not to tell anyone, but she "told everyone," including many actors and producers. In response, most told her that it was just Harvey being Harvey. In an interview with TMZ, she emphasized that anyone in the industry who knew Harvey at all knew that he regularly did things like what he allegedly did to her.
Kate Beckinsale has accused Harvey Weinstein of coming onto her in his hotel room when she was 17 years old.
Tara Subkoff said that in the 1990s, on the same day that she was offered a major movie role, she met Harvey Weinstein at a party. He allegedly made her sit on his lap while he had an erection. He then told her that if he did not do certain sexual things, she would not get the role that she'd already been offered. She declined. Afterward, she said, her "reputation was ruined by false gossip" and she found it near impossible to book roles.
Minka Kelly said that Harvey Weinstein offered her a lavish lifestyle in exchange for being his extramarital girlfriend. She declined.
Gwyneth Paltrow told the New York Times that Harvey Weinstein asked her for a massage in his hotel suite. After she told then-boyfriend Brad Pitt, Pitt confronted him, leading Weinstein to contact Paltrow and "scream" at her, she said.
Asia Argento has accused Weinstein of raping her in his hotel room when she was 21. She first reluctantly agreed to give him a massage, and then he forcibly performed oral sex on her. During subsequent encounters, she had consensual sexual relations with him due to fear that he would otherwise ruin her career.
Rose McGowan has publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of rape. In October 2016, she tweeted reference to a studio head raping her. In October 2017, in a tweet to Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, McGowan referred to Weinstein by name while repeating her rape accusation. The alleged incident took place in the 1990s and resulted in a financial settlement.
Cara Delevingne has accused Harvey Weinstein of attempting to coerce her into kissing another woman in his hotel room. She had just begun her acting career and believed they were meeting just to finalize talks for a film role.
Angelina Jolie said she had a "bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth" and refused to work with him subsequently.
Jessica Barth has accused Harvey Weinstein of demanding that she get naked and give him a massage.
Emma de Caunes has accused Harvey Weinstein of unexpectedly getting naked and demanding that she lie down as other women had supposedly done before her.
Lauren Sivan has accused Harvey Weinstein of cornering her in a public space and masturbating to completion in front of her.
Mira Sorvino, seen here at a Weinstein Co. event in January 2017, said that after refusing Harvey Weinstein's advances, he dissuaded others in the industry from hiring her.
Ambra Battilana has accused Harvey Weinstein of groping her breasts and reaching under her skirt. She went to the NYPD and then conducted a sting operation, the audio of which was published by the New Yorker. In the audio, Weinstein can be heard attempting to coerce her to enter his hotel room.
Louisette Geiss has accused Harvey Weinstein of luring her to his hotel room after assuring her he wouldn't hit on her. He then disrobed and repeatedly asked her to watch him masturbate, telling her he would produce her screenplay if she did.
Emily Nestor (far right), a former Weinstein Co. employee, has accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment.
Rosanna Arquette has accused Harvey Weinstein of dissuading others from hiring her after she rejected his sexual advances.
Rose McGowan has publicly accused Weinstein of sexual harassment. She has also accused others in the industry of knowing of Weinstein's misconduct and either actively or passively hiding it.
Ashley Judd has publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of asking her for a massage and then asking her to watch him shower.
Florence Darel has accused Harvey Weinstein of coming onto her in a hotel suite in 1996 while his wife was in the room next door.
Zoe Brock (left, in 2004) has accused Weinstein of getting naked and chasing her around a hotel room after she refused to give him a massage.
Katherine Kendall (right, in 2006) has accused Harvey Weinstein of disrobing and asking for a massage in his apartment after a movie screening, telling her that "everybody does it." He then asked her to at least show him her breasts, which she refused.
Romola Garai has accused Harvey Weinstein of making her feel "violated" when he watched her audition wearing only a bathrobe in his hotel room.
Lea Seydoux has accused Harvey Weinstein of forcibly trying to kiss her on the lips in 2012.
Claire Forlani said she "escaped" Harvey Weinstein on five occasions. He allegedly told her about all the actresses he had slept with and how he had in turn established their careers. He also attempted to get her to give him a massage.
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Virtually unheard of before Anita Hill's accusations against Clarence Thomas during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991, EPLI is now a multi-billion dollar industry. Companies paid over $2 billion in EPLI premiums last year.

Even Warren Buffett's insurance company — Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance — offers an EPLI product. Launched in November 2016, not long after Gretchen Carlson's settlement with 21st Century Fox, Berkshire Hathaway's EPLI policies provide up to $25 million in coverage for a wide variety of claims, from harassment to "improper internet activity."

"Claims are so common now that its more or less part of the cost of doing business," New Jersey employment lawyer Stephanie Gironda told Business Insider.

Industry insiders expect the Trump administration will be 'much more business-friendly'

Sexual harassment suits can be brought at the state or local level, but complaints are often handled at the federal level through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the National Labor Relations Board. Under President Donald Trump's administration, however, business leaders and insurance providers expect oversight by those organizations to become more lax.

"They have been very aggressively protecting employees. I think we generally expect that this new administration will be very different in that approach, and they’ll be much more business-friendly," Aon Financial Services Group national EPLI practice leader Thomas Hams told the Insurance Journal in January.

That assumption may prove true. Trump's labor secretary, Alex Acosta, previously faced criticism when, as a federal prosecutor in Miami, he agreed not to bring federal charges against New York billionaire Jeffrey E. Epstein for paying underage girls for sexual acts.

"Women everywhere are used to being dismissed, ignored, or attacked when raising complaints about men in authority positions," Megyn Kelly said on NBC on Monday. "They stay silent so often out of fear. Fear of ending their careers, fear of lawyers, yes, and often fear of public shaming, including through the media."

For many women, speaking out against powerful men is too big a risk — a risk they can't limit by buying a specialty insurance product. And, as the Harvey Weinstein accusations show, some stay silent long after they achieve success and power in their own right.

But the positive public response to women who have come forward recently could cause the tides to turn. If it does, the potential economic upside potential is huge. Recent research from McKinsey shows increasing gender equality in the workplace could add $4.3 trillion to US GDP by 2025.

Given that, rooting out sexual harassment in the workplace could be worth far more to companies than the protection EPLI offers.

NOW WATCH: Women Give Disturbing Personal Accounts Of Being Sexually Harassed On The Subway

4 PHOTOS
High profile sexual assault cases of 2016
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High profile sexual assault cases of 2016

Former Stanford student Brock Turner who was sentenced to six months in county jail for the sexual assault of an unconscious and intoxicated woman is shown in this Santa Clara County Sheriff's booking photo taken January 18, 2015, and received June 7, 2016.

(Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department/Handout)

Alec Cook is pictured in this undated booking photo. The University of Wisconsin-Madison student is accused of sexually assaulting several women.

(Madison Police Department/Handout)

 

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby (C) arrives for a preliminary hearing on sexual assault charges at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania February 2, 2016. Cosby has been charged with the 2004 sexual assault of Andrea Constand, a former women's basketball team manager at Temple University in Philadelphia, Cosby's alma mater.

(REUTERS/Mark Makela)

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See Also:

SEE ALSO: Harvey Weinstein accusations prove one thing can trump money and power — but it's nearly impossible to get

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