WWE founder Vince McMahon and a former executive have been sued for sex trafficking and battery by a ex-administrative employee, who questioned the extent of the company’s investigation into hush money payments after she wasn’t interviewed despite stating her cooperation.
Janel Grant, in a lawsuit filed in Connecticut federal court on Thursday, said she was coerced by McMahon into having sex with him and others at the company at his direction during his tenure as chief executive of the wrestling outfit. WWE was named in the complaint for attempting to “conceal the wrongdoing.”
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The suit escalates growing legal troubles for the company tied to payments by McMahon to silence sexual misconduct allegations. He initially retired in 2022 amid the probe, only to return the next year by using his power as WWE’s controlling shareholder to appoint himself and two former executives to its board, which went on to name him executive chairman. McMahon in November was sued in a shareholder complaint over his corporate coup that paved that path for him to merge the sports entertainment powerhouse with Endeavor’s UFC. It accused him of accepting a sweetheart deal that allowed him to stay on as executive chairman of TKO Group and avoid scrutiny in connection with the probe that could’ve ousted him from the company.
In a statement, a spokesperson for McMahon said, “This lawsuit is replete with lies, obscene made-up instances that never occurred, and a vindictive distortion of the truth.”
WWE didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
According to the complaint, Grant in 2019 was directly hired by McMahon as an administrator-coordinator in WWE’s legal department. While McMahon was chief executive, she alleged he “recruited individuals to have sexual relations” with her and directed her to engage in sexual activity at WWE headquarters during working hours.
The suit details a June 2021 assault by McMahon and John Lauriantis, former head of talent relations who was also named in the complaint.
“Behind a locked door, the two men cornered her and pulled her in between them, forcibly touched her, before ultimately putting her on top of a table in between them,” the complaint stated. “She begged them to stop, but they forced themselves on her, each taking turns restraining her for the other.”
According to the complaint, Grant was terminated when McMahon’s wife discovered the affair. She says she was coerced into signing a nondisclosure agreement under the threat of McMahon releasing pornographic content he captured and his vast legal resources.
“Ultimately, Ms. Grant succumbed to the pressure and signed the NDA in exchange for payments – which McMahon later stopped making,” the complaint stated.
Instead of intervening to address the alleged misconduct, Grant claims that WWE moved to “sweep the matter under the rug” with a payment of $3 million. She takes issue with the company’s board of directors touting the conclusion of the “sham” probe into sexual misconduct allegations by McMahon despite the special committee neglecting to interview or request documents from her.
Additionally, the suit calls into question WWE’s characterization of hush money payments from McMahon, which were initially footed by the company. In securities filings, WWE called the payouts “immaterial accounting errors,” per the suit.
Grant claims suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal ideation due to the alleged misconduct. She seeks unspecified damages and brings claims for battery and violations of federal laws related to sex trafficking, as well as negligence against WWE.
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