Vince McMahon accuser agrees to pause lawsuit pending federal probe

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A woman who accused WWE co-founder Vince McMahon of sexual misconduct agreed to pause her lawsuit after the Justice Department requested she do so pending a federal investigation, according to her attorney.

Janel Grant alleged in a complaint filed in January that McMahon offered her a job at WWE that became dependent on a sexual relationship with him. The relationship, which continued through January 2022, put her through sexual acts of “extreme cruelty and degradation,” including injury, the complaint said. The suit also claimed McMahon later involved other people in their sexual acts, including then-WWE executive John Laurinaitis, and shared photos, videos and details with other WWE employees.

Grant accused McMahon, the WWE and Laurinaitis of sex trafficking, physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault and negligence in the suit.

“Ms. Grant has consented to a request by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York to stay her case against Mr. McMahon, WWE and Mr. Laurinaitis, pursuant to a pending non-public investigation,” Grant’s attorney, Ann Callis, said in a statement. “We will cooperate with all appropriate next steps.”

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York’s office declined to comment when contacted Friday.

A spokesperson for McMahon released a statement in January saying, “This lawsuit is replete with lies, obscene made-up instances that never occurred, and a vindictive distortion of the truth” before adding that McMahon “will vigorously defend himself,” according to multiple reports.

McMahon is alleged to have told Grant in January 2022 that the relationship and employment needed to end because McMahon’s wife, Linda, had learned of the situation and it could do damage to him and WWE. The lawsuit claimed McMahon pressured Grant to sign a nondisclosure agreement and leave the company. Following pushback from Grant’s counsel and a back-and-forth, Grant ultimately signed an NDA for $3 million. She received a $1 million payment in February 2022 but claimed in the lawsuit that she did not receive the rest.

The lawsuit claimed that Grant “lives with so much anxiety and depression that she is unable to leave her residence for weeks at a time out of fear and PTSD.” It seeks declaratory judgment that the NDA is unenforceable, compensatory damages, punitive damages and further relief.

The WSJ first reported in June 2022 that McMahon was under investigation by the WWE board following an anonymous tip of an affair and hush money payment of $3 million by McMahon. The figures of those reported payments later rose upwards of $12 million and involved at least four women, according to the WSJ. This lawsuit claimed that the anonymous tip was about the alleged relationship with Grant, but the board investigation, according to the lawsuit, did not include an interview with Grant, despite her willingness to cooperate.

In July 2022, McMahon announced his retirement from WWE, though he remained its largest shareholder. He returned to the company in January 2023 with plans to sell WWE. That came in April 2023 when Endeavor bought a controlling stake in WWE to merge it with Ultimate Fighting Championship. That merger into “TKO Group” was completed in September. McMahon’s role with TKO is executive chairman of the board.

McMahon was hit also with a grand jury subpoena and search warrant in July 2023, the company disclosed last year, saying it believed it was a continuation of the investigation into McMahon’s conduct. McMahon told CNBC in August 2023, “I have always denied any intentional wrongdoing and continue to do so. I am confident that the government’s investigation will be resolved without any findings of wrongdoing.”

Grant’s lawsuit claimed she “has been further traumatized by having to relive those experiences when giving evidence to the government in connection with their investigations of WWE.”

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(Photo: Michael N. Todaro / Getty Images)

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