Top Fox lawyer heads for exit after $787.5 million Dominion settlement

Fox Corp.’s top lawyer and a close aide to Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch is stepping down in the company’s biggest management shift since its $787.5 million settlement of defamation claims by Dominion Voting Systems.

Viet Dinh, Fox’s chief legal and policy officer, will depart that role on Dec. 31 and become a special adviser to the company, the company announced on Friday. As part of his separation agreement, Dinh will receive a $23 million lump-sum payment. He will also be paid $2.5 million a year as an adviser under a two-year contract.

Fox didn’t state a reason for Dinh’s departure, but people familiar with the matter, while stressing the parting was amicable, said it was largely due to unhappiness over his handling of the Dominion case and its outcome — the largest payout ever in a media defamation case.

“We appreciate Viet’s many contributions and service to Fox as both a board member of 21st Century Fox and in his role over the last five years as a valued member of Fox’s leadership team,” Fox Chief Executive Officer Lachlan Murdoch, said in a statement. “We are grateful that he will continue to serve Fox as special adviser where we will benefit from his counsel.”

Dinh is the second major figure to depart Fox in the wake of its April settlement of Dominion’s suit over Fox News’s airing of 2020 election fraud claims. In May, Tucker Carlson, the network’s most popular host, was fired. Fox News still faces another defamation suit by another voting machine maker, Smartmatic Corp., which is seeking $2.7 billion in damages over claims of rigged voting.

A former Justice Department official and top Washington lawyer, Dinh had risen into the Murdochs’ inner circle at Fox, becoming a trusted adviser to the moguls. But the New York Times reported in May that Dinh was facing criticism over his assurances to the Fox board that the company would ultimately prevail in the case, on appeal if not at trial.

Citing court records and interviews with about a dozen people involved in the case, the Times reported that Dinh’s optimism led the company to prolong the litigation, leading to embarrassing disclosures of deposition testimony and communications by the Murdochs as well as top Fox executives and on-air personalities in which they cast doubt on the election claims they were broadcasting.

According to court filings, Dinh participated in discussions of Fox News’s coverage in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election. He was copied, along with Rupert Murdoch and Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, on a November 2020 email from another Fox executive, Raj Shah, who expressed concern about former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell’s “outlandish” voter fraud claims.

Dinh was assistant US attorney general in the administration of President George W. Bush. After leaving the government, Dinh went on to found Bancroft PLLC, a high-powered Washington litigation boutique known for taking cases on behalf of conservative groups. The firm, which led Supreme Court challenges against Obamacare, was acquired by Kirkland & Ellis in 2016.

Dinh joined Fox as chief legal officer in 2018 but earlier served as a director at two predecessor companies.

“I have been privileged to be part of the Fox family for over two decades as a director and officer, and I have especially treasured my relationships with Rupert, Lachlan and our talented colleagues over the years,” Dinh said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing with Fox as special adviser, and to returning to my roots of working on multiple ventures and with many clients across a variety of disciplines.”

Fox announced Dinh’s departure after financial markets closed Friday in New York. The shares finished the day ahead 0.3% to $34.60.

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