One Of Herman Cain’s Accusers Wants To Talk

The Washington Post reports that at least one of the women who accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment some 20 years ago is now seeking to be released from her Confidentiality Agreement so she can talk about the matter:

One of the women who accused GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain of sexual harassment wants to tell her side of the story but is barred by a confidentiality agreement, her attorney in Washington said Tuesday.

Lawyer Joel P. Bennett called on the National Restaurant Association, where the woman and Cain worked in the late 1990s, to release the woman from her written promise not to talk about the allegations or disparage the trade group.

“It is just frustrating that Herman Cain is going around bad-mouthing the two complainants, and my client is blocked by a confidentiality agreement,” Bennett said. “The National Restaurant Association ought to release them and allow them to respond. ”

The association, which Cain headed from 1996 to 1999, has remained mum since the story broke in Politico on Sunday evening, citing a long-standing policy not to comment on personnel issues. Cain denied the sexual harassment allegations, saying they were “totally baseless and totally false.”

Bennett represents one of the two women, who attended an Ivy League school and now works for the federal government. She has avoided the limelight since the allegations were aired, and she is staying with relatives while the media stakes out her home in suburban Maryland, Bennett said.

If she is released from the confidentiality ban, “then it is whole new ballgame,” Bennett said.

“If we didn’t have a written settlement agreement that says confidential and no disparagement, I think she’d be very comfortable coming forward,” the attorney told The Post on Tuesday. “Not because she would be so hellbent on doing something to Herman Cain — I don’t know that.

Bennett acknowledges that he represented this woman when her charges were made back in the 1990s and apparently negotiated the settlement, or whatever one wants to call it, on her behalf. Earlier today, Bennett raised the possibility that Cain himself had already violated the agreement and effectively released his client from confidentiality:

The lawyer for a woman who settled a sexual harassment complaint against Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain in the late 1990s says that Cain may have violated the confidentiality terms of the agreement by commenting on its specifics over the past 24 hours.

“Herman Cain and others have already disclosed that there was a confidential settlement,” says Joel P. Bennett, a Washington-based attorney specializing in employment law, who also represented the woman when she negotiated her settlement.

Two women, including Bennett’s client, settled sexual harassment complaints against Cain when they worked for him during his late-1990s tenure as head of the National Restaurant Association.

The revelations were first contained in a story in Politico; Bennett declined to confirm the identity of his client.

“I don’t know if she’ll ever go public,” he said Tuesday.

Cain may have waived the confidentiality requirements by talking publicly about the settlement, including disclosing details of the agreement, Bennett told NPR. That could potentially free up his client, as well as a second woman who settled a similar complaint, to speak publicly.

(…)

Bennett says his client’s settlement also contains a non-disparagement clause.

 

Bennett declined to comment more specifically on the settlement terms because he no longer has a copy of the 12-year-old agreement, and is relying on details provided to him by his client. He expects to receive a copy of the agreement from her Tuesday or Wednesday.

Without having the agreement in hand, Bennett says he doesn’t know what it specifically says about Cain’s obligations under the non-disparagement and confidentiality clauses.

“I haven’t seen the agreement” in a dozen years, he said. “I haven’t seen whether it goes both ways.”

But even if it doesn’t, Bennett says, “If an employer makes a confidential agreement, and then discloses it, there’s a reasonable assumption that the employer has waived the confidentiality part of the agreement.”

That would depend on the language of the agreement, whether Cain is even bound by a duty of confidentiality, and whether what Cain and others have said actually constitutes a breach of the agreement. Typically, a person bound by a confidentiality agreement is permitted to say that there was a dispute, that it was settled, and that the terms are confidential. Cain went a little bit beyond that last night when he said that he recalled the settlement being equivalent to three to six months salary. He also gave a description of what he recalled the allegations of inappropriate behavior being. Whether this is enough to constitute a breach is unclear and, even if it is, there wouldn’t be a definitive answer until the matter was ruled on by a court.

That’s why Bennett is asking the National Restaurant Association for a release. Whether they’d be inclined to give it is another question. Quite honestly, they’d probably just prefer to keep this matter quiet and that would mean not granting a release. However, this is part of a Presidential campaign now for better or worse. It’s not going to go away until someone uncovers more details. The NRA is a trade association that would probably prefer not to ruffle any partisan feathers, though, so this may be a tough choice for them.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. alanstorm says:

    “She has avoided the limelight since the allegations were aired, and she is staying with relatives while the media stakes out her home in suburban Maryland, Bennett said.”

    What’s wrong with this picture?

    The article (at least the part excerpted here) implies that the woman’s name has not been revealed. How, then is “the media” staking out her house – and not broadcasting her name far and wide? The media has never been known for its taste and discretion.

  2. sam says:

    Didn’t take long for that pump to drop.

  3. @alanstorm:

    Yea I’m not sure what that’s all about

  4. matt b says:

    It seems to me that this could end up being on of those moments that Cain’s straight from the heart/gut rhetorical style could really bite him. If he hasn’t already violated the terms of the settlement, I expect it won’t be to long until he does. His habit to engage mouth without brain (as opposed to Romney’s over-parsing) would make him the sort of client that would give his attorney a case of permanent heartburn.

  5. @matt b:

    I am guessing that Cain had not bothered to consult with an attorney before speaking publicly about this

  6. Bob B. says:

    “Cain went a little bit beyond that last night when he said that he recalled the settlement being equivalent to three to six months salary. He also gave a description of what he recalled the allegations of inappropriate behavior being. Whether this is enough to constitute a breach is unclear and, even if it is, there wouldn’t be a definitive answer until the matter was ruled on by a court.”

    Hasn’t he also claimed that the allegations were baseless? Seems ot me that is a disparaging comment about the alleged victim(s). Although it still depends on the language of the settlement agreement.

  7. PD Shaw says:

    @alanstorm: Wouldn’t there be a complaint filed in the courthouse or before a state agency? Beyond that, I would not be surprised if the accusers’ friends and co-workers know their identity and the media have picked up on the gossip.

  8. Boyd says:

    Doug, why do you keep saying “20 years ago” in regards to these events?

  9. @Boyd:

    Rounding error, I admit. Perhaps it just seems that long ago to someone my age 😀

  10. Boyd says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Don’t get sassy, boy!

    Or maybe I should respond following President Reagan’s pattern: I won’t hold your youth and inexperience against you.

  11. Boyd says:

    BTW, I actually meant to say “whippersnapper” instead of “boy,” but by the time I got to that point in typing the sentence, I’d forgotten what the word was.

    Git offa my lawn!

  12. Michael Hale says:

    Joel P. Bennett is a lawyer and not immune from stretching the truth. His client cannot be cannot be sued for telling the truth. By removing the confidentiality agreement she would be allowed to keep the severance pay, it was not a settlement, she was terminated and paid a severance because the charges were baseless. See the related posts about her performance which led her take this desperate step. You do not keep those type of people around. Again, sit her down and let her talk!! Releasing her from the confidentiality agreement would only allow her to lie without fear of a liable lawsuit. You do not get sued for telling the truth. Nothing is stopping her from telling the truth. I would pay her the severance to hear it.

  13. michael reynolds says:

    @Michael Hale:
    It was a settlement. You’re not going to win this. It was a settlement, and Cain’s story is coming apart like papier mache in a hurricane. That’s not to say he was guilty, I don’t know, and neither do you. But the papers will eventually surface and Cain has dug himself a deep hole by virtue of his inexperience.

  14. @Michael Hale:

    Nothing is stopping her from telling the truth.

    Except the contract she signed obligating her to confidentiality.

    I would pay her the severance to hear it.

    In that case, you may wish to contact Mr. Bennett.

  15. A voice from another precinct says:

    I’m not sure that there is a downside bottom line for the NRA here, but if a spokesperson for the group were to note that “we would have to get Mr. Cain’s permission” to release her, that admission would do almost as much damage to his credibility as anything so far.

    And then the right could complain that he’s being Palin-ed by the hypocritical “lame-stream media” because he’s black.

  16. sam says:

    @Michael Hale:

    See the related posts about her performance which led her take this desperate step

    Just a tip — if you want anyone to think you’re credible, you will supply links for stuff like that. (Oh, and links to Breitbart or Limbaugh wouldn’t count.)