PBS Wins Suit Against Former Host Tavis Smiley with Support from Analysis Group Marketing Expert
March 12, 2020
Analysis Group was retained on behalf of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), the defendant in a dispute with talk show host Tavis Smiley, whom PBS fired amid claims of sexual harassment. Smiley’s company sued the network for breach of contract, alleging that the sexual harassment claims were being used as a pretext to terminate his agreement. PBS countersued, arguing that Smiley’s conduct violated a morals clause in the network’s agreement with him, which barred Smiley from conduct detrimental to PBS’s reputation. It was one of very few cases involving a morals clause to go to trial.
An Analysis Group team led by Managing Principal Rebecca Kirk Fair, Vice President Laura O’Laughlin, and Manager Alix Duhaime-Ross, supported academic affiliate Tülin Erdem, a marketing expert. Professor Erdem testified at trial on the importance of the PBS brand and the reputational harm that the network would likely suffer as a result of its association with Smiley’s alleged actions.
A jury of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ruled in PBS’s favor on all counts, finding that Smiley had breached the morals clause in his agreement with the network. The jury awarded PBS a substantial financial judgment.