One of the most haunting scenes in Ronan Farrow’s book Catch and Kill arises from an interview with the former NBC News producer who accused Today host Matt Lauer of rape. Having finally recounted a devastating tale for the record, she responds to a series of questions about the network with a rote refrain: “I am obliged to tell you that I cannot disparage Andy Lack, or Noah Oppenheim, or any other employee of NBC News.” Her freedom to describe her own life is circumscribed by the non-disclosure agreement she had to sign as a condition of a settlement.

From news coverage of Lauer, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, former CBS chairman Les Moonves, and other high-profile figures credibly accused of sexual abuse, the American public is learning more all of the time about the use of non-disclosure agreements—or NDAs, otherwise known as hush contracts—to keep wrongful behavior out of the public eye. Indeed, NDAs have an even broader reach. Other signatories of such agreements include U.S. government employees who have promised not to reveal what they witness at the Trump White House and former Theranos employees who are bound to secrecy about the disgraced health-tech company. Hush contracts enable one party to buy the other party’s silence; they are the kill in the phrase catch and kill.

In the latest iteration of the #MeToo movement, activists are pressuring media organizations like NBC and Fox to release victims of sexual harassment from their obligations to keep quiet about what they know. As professors of contract law, we believe hush contracts like these should be legally unenforceable. A private agreement to hide information important to public safety, whether it is sexual harassment or government corruption, is unlikely to hold up in court no matter what. …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Best of


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