By Helen Coster
(Reuters) – When deliberating whether to settle its defamation lawsuit against Fox for $787.5 million in April, the CEO of Dominion Voting Systems and his partner saw the figure as “a very big price to put on truth and journalism and probably not a bad precedent,” Dominion head John Poulos said Wednesday.
Poulos, Dominion’s co-founder and chief executive, spoke about his experience settling the historic lawsuit during an interview at the Sir Harry Evans Global Summit in Investigative Journalism in London.
Dominion sued Fox News and parent company Fox Corp in 2021 over the network’s coverage of false vote-rigging claims about the voting technology firm. It had sought $1.6 billion in damages. The settlement, which legal experts said was the largest struck by a U.S. media company, was announced by the two sides and the judge in the case at the 11th hour.
At issue in the lawsuit was whether Fox was liable for airing the false claims that Denver-based Dominion’s ballot-counting machines were used to manipulate the presidential election in favor of Democrat Joe Biden over then-President Donald Trump, a Republican.
Recalling the April 18 settlement, which occurred prior to opening statements in what was expected to be a roughly six-week trial, Poulos said he was instructed to go into a separate room, where his lawyer slid across the table a piece of paper with a number on it, “yes or no.”
Poulos said he considered the fact that there would be neither a video of the trial, nor a broadcasting of its audio. “So really, it was just another written record of the already written record that we had put forward in our court filings.”
The number on the paper was “just slightly higher” than what Dominion’s independent expert had valued Dominion at on Election Day 2020, said Poulos. While he believed a jury would side in Dominion’s favor, the remaining question came down to whether the jury would decide on a figure that was higher or lower than the number presented on the paper.
By the time Poulos left the courtroom, the money had been wired.
Dominion’s settlement with Fox is part of a broader legal campaign by the company to seek accountability from companies and individuals whom it claims have spread falsehoods about its technology. The company is also suing former Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, conservative media networks One America News Network and Newsmax Media, and others.
(Reporting by Helen Coster in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis)