Stormy Hush Money Not As Common As Trump Claims, Hollywood Says
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump made it sound like the nondisclosure agreement his lawyer struck with an adult-film star was nothing special. Don’t try telling that to Hollywood lawyers.
While it’s common for the rich and famous to include confidentiality clauses in contracts with personal trainers, household staff and the like to protect their privacy, it’s a whole other matter to pay someone a six-figure amount to buy their silence, said Genie Harrison, an employment lawyer.
"It’s absolutely not normal," said Harrison, who represents a former personal assistant of Harvey Weinstein in a sexual harassment lawsuit. "People don’t pay that kind of money unless they are concerned about some very negative exposure."
Trump admitted for the first time Thursday that he reimbursed his longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen for a $130,000 "hush payment" to Stephanie Clifford in 2016. Trump said in a series of tweets that it was a private contract between two parties, adding that these kind of non-disclosure agreements were "very common among celebrities and people of wealth."
Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels, sued Trump to get out from under the agreement which she claims isn’t valid because Trump never signed it.
Another factor that sets the deal with Clifford apart from typical nondisclosure agreements is the way it was structured to hide the identities of the parties, said Christopher Melcher, a Woodland Hills, California-based divorce lawyer.
"There’s no legitimate reason to hide the identity of the payer or to create a separate company to facilitate the payment," Melcher said. "That’s highly unusual."
Aside from using nondisclosure agreements when hiring employees and contractors, some high-profile people also use them when dating at the start of a relationship, according to Melcher.
Given that the kind of nondisclosure agreement Trump made with Clifford is secret and rarely made public, there’s no way of telling how frequently they’re used, Melcher said.
Reports about Weinstein’s sexual misconduct last year cast a spotlight on the role of nondisclosure agreements to silence the victims of abuse. Many companies use them to protect themselves against lawsuits and negative publicity over workplace harassment.
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