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Experts say Vince McMahon’s NDAs may not be enforceable

Non-disclosure agreements have played a big role in Vince McMahon’s fall from grace. The fact the money he paid women to sign them wasn’t recorded as a WWE business expense forced him to temporarily resign from his roles there in 2022. And his refusal to pay the promised amount to one particular woman, Janel Grant, led to her January 2024 lawsuit describing the abuse & degradation she alleges he forced her to endure, which has resulted in what looks to be McMahon’s more permanent resignation from WWE’s new parent company TKO.

But if a new report from Vice is correct, NDAs could be an even bigger part of the story of what’s to come for McMahon and WWE. That’s because several legal experts Vice’s Tim Marchman spoke to claim those NDAs may be unenforceable, which would allow the women who signed them to come forward with their stories just as Grant has.

One reason the other NDAs could be bypassed is if McMahon’s breached their terms as he has with Grant. Non-payment of agreed upon sums would constitute breach of contract on McMahon’s part, freeing up the other party to share information with the public — or the federal prosecutors who learned recently are still investigating McMahon.

The agreements also appear to have been executed without WWE’s knowledge. “A person familiar with the situation” told Marchman the NDAs were created in secret, and in some cases signed by McMahon on the company’s behalf. Supporting this claim is the fact WWE restated their earnings after learning about the settlement amounts agreed to in exchange for the signed NDAs.

NDAs also can’t be used to prevent a victim of a crime from bringing criminal charges. McMahon hasn’t been charged with a crime yet, but the ongoing federal investigation could obviously change that.

There’s also a question of the legal quality of the agreements themselves. Vice spoke to Carrie Goldberg, a lawyer who represented victims of movie producer and sex criminal Harvey Weinstein, who called McMahon’s NDAs “poor drafted”.

From Marchman’s report:

Goldberg says the central problem is the agreement’s lack of specificity. Her analysis matches that of Grant’s lawyers, who argue in the suit that the NDA should be voided because the language is so broad that it could prevent her from listing WWE on her resume.

“The NDA makes references to confidentiality, but there’s no definition of what to be confidential about,” said Goldberg. “It’s very vague. Usually there’s super-specific information about what to be confidential about.”

Another NDA expert Vice spoke to, UC Law San Francisco professor Jodi Short, doesn’t believe the documents will even stand up in court — and that fighting to enforce them could also lead to unwanted results for McMahon:

“It is my considered opinion,” she [Professor Short] wrote in an email to VICE News, “that NDAs such as the one you sent me are unenforceable under common law contract doctrine. But there is very little case law squarely on point, and litigating such a case would expose an individual to enormous cost and litigation risk. That’s why most people end up silenced by NDAs even if, technically, they’re not worth the paper they’re written on. It’s not just the paper. It’s paper backed by an extreme asymmetry in resources between the two parties.”

More to come... especially if these experts are right.

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