Fox News Just Unsettled Its $8 Million Hush-Money Settlement

Remember Brian Lewis, the former vice president of media relations for Fox News and even more former confidante of Fox News president Roger Ailes? This past November, Fox paid approximately $8 million in hush money to settle a dispute over his dramatic firing, in which the network had accused Lewis of “financial irregularities” and Lewis had countered, through his attorney, with a threat to tell “the truth” about Fox News.

After all the threats and recriminations—Fox employees said Ailes had come to believe Lewis was leaking information to reporters—the settlement was a bit of a letdown. But that disappointment may be short-lived: According to an attorney involved in a current lawsuit against Fox, Lewis recently opened an arbitration claim against the channel for breaching the settlement’s terms, a move that threatens to upend their polite (and very expensive) agreement.

The attorney, Christopher Chang, represents Roger Domal, Fox’s former vice president of client relations. In an age-discrimination lawsuit filed in December, Domal charged Ailes with systematically firing older executives and replacing them with younger staffers. Buried in Fox’s response to the suit, filed in late January, are new allegations of financial misconduct.

Specifically, Fox’s attorney, Barry Asen, accused Domal of participating in a scheme to generate bogus expense reports:

Almost six months after Fox terminated Domal’s employment on July 26, 2013, Fox discovered that Domal had knowingly, inappropriately and unlawfully aided a co-worker, Brian Lewis, in having his fraudulent expense reimbursement requests approved. Such expenses totaled many thousands of dollars. If Fox had known of Domal’s misconduct on or before July 26, 2013, Fox would have promptly terminated Domal for that reason.

Emphasis added. The accusation sat unnoticed for months, but it might be the most explosive part of the lawsuit. Out-of-court agreements involving figures like Lewis, and entities like Fox, usually forbid both parties to talk about the other in public afterward. (That seemed to be the case with Lewis and Fox.)

So Fox is back to publicly accusing Brian Lewis of financial misconduct. Breaking the silence around the settlement agreement would likely require particularly compelling evidence implicating both Domal and Lewis, enough to override the risk of violating the agreement’s terms. Fox, however, has yet to provide such evidence.

In the meantime, both executives are hitting back at their former employer, and targeting Ailes while they’re at it.

Domal’s attorney, Christopher Chang, told Gawker after a recent court appearance that his firm is seeking copies of Lewis’s detailed settlement papers, which spell out, among other things, what Lewis and Fox can and cannot discuss with others. These papers almost certainly discuss dozens, if not hundreds, of the channel’s most sensitive matters: enough to land, as Lewis did, a multimillion-dollar payday. Fox News is strenuously resisting the firm’s requests for these documents.

Chang’s firm, the attorney added, is also seeking to depose Roger Ailes, whose testimony could draw even more attention to the reasons he fired Lewis, and the secrets Ailes paid to conceal. It is not yet clear whether Fox plans to contest Ailes’s deposition.

Lewis, Domal’s supposed co-conspirator, has not yet indicated whether he intends to take action against Fox, and referred inquiries to his attorney.

However, after the same court appearance last week, Chang revealed that Barry Asen, the attorney representing Fox, acknowledged in a pre-appearance conversation that Lewis had recently opened an arbitration claim against the channel over the new allegations.

“Lewis has already filed a claim against Fox in arbitration, claiming, among other things, that Fox breached the settlement agreement with Lewis,” Chang wrote in an email, “by asserting in the Domal action that Domal aided Lewis in submitting to Fox false/inflated travel expenses, etc. for reimbursement.”

Lewis’s attorney, Judd Burstein, declined to discuss his client.

“I have no comment to make about your inquiry,” Burstein wrote in an email to Gawker, “except to note that the wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine.”

Fox News and its lawyers did not return requests for comment.

To contact the author of this post, email trotter@gawker.com