2016 Trump Campaign in $450,000 Lawsuit Settlement Voids Worker Non-Disclosure Pacts

Brooks Kraft | Getty Images
  • The 2016 campaign of former President Donald Trump agreed to invalidate its employee non-disclosure agreements in a $450,000 settlement of a federal court lawsuit.
  • The plaintiff, Jessica Denson, who had worked as a campaign aide, will receive $25,000 under the deal, with the rest of the money going to cover legal fees and costs.
  • The campaign tried to keep the monetary terms of the settlement secret, but a federal judge rejected that effort.
  • Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House in 2016.

Former President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, as part of a $450,000 settlement of a class-action lawsuit by a former campaign aide, agreed to void non-disclosure agreements that hundreds of campaign workers and volunteers had signed as a condition of their work.

The deal, revealed Friday in a court filing, ended a lawsuit filed by former Trump campaign aide Jessica Denson in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

The settlement effectively invalidates all other NDAs signed by employees of the Trump campaign, potentially opening the door for them to publicly discuss events related to the 2016 race, and to Trump himself, without fear of potentially financially ruinous legal retaliation by him.

Trump, who defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race for the White House, for decades has required people who work for him to sign NDAs. In November, he announced that he will seek the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

"This compromise is in fact a total victory for Jessica Denson, and all 2016 Trump campaign workers," said David Bowles, a lawyer for Denson.

"The Trump NDA is invalid and unenforceable, and the campaign workers should never have had to live under its shadow," Bowles said.

Representatives for Trump's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the settlement, which was first reported Friday by the Bloomberg news service.

Lawyers for the campaign had said in a court filing that "the Campaign represents that on its own volition it notified all of these employees, contractors, and volunteers in a signed writing that they are 'no longer bound by these non-disclosure and non-disparagement provisions.'"

Last April, an arbitrator ordered Trump's 2016 campaign to pay $1.3 million in legal fees to Omarosa Manigault Newman, the former "Apprentice" star whom the campaign unsuccessfully sued over a book about her tenure as a White House advisor.

That award came months after the same arbitrator ruled that the non-disclosure agreement she had signed while working on Trump's campaign was invalid under New York law, citing the decision regarding Denson's agreement.

Denson filed her lawsuit in 2020, saying that the Trump campaign tried to silence her after she went public with allegations that she was the target of abusive treatment and sexual discrimination by another member of the campaign.

Denson's lawyers in court filings said the NDAs that she and others had signed were too broad under the law.

The attorneys cited language that prevents the disclosure of information "that Mr. Trump insists remain private" and which blocks anything that could be "demean[ing] or disparag[ing] publicly" about him.

Judge Paul Gardephe in a March 2021 ruling declared the non-disclosure and non-disparagement provisions invalid for Denson, setting a potential precedent for future cases regarding the NDAs.

The Trump campaign will pay $450,000 in the settlement, the vast majority of which will cover Denson's lawyers' fees and costs.

Denson herself will get $25,000 under the deal.

Prior to the settlement, the 2016 Trump campaign said it would release all employees, contractors and volunteers from any non-disclosure or non-disparagement agreements.

Before the deal was finalized, Trump's campaign attempted to seal the monetary terms of the settlement on the grounds that it could hurt its ability to negotiate similar legal settlements in the future.

Gardephe denied that request last month.

Copyright CNBC
Contact Us