Federal authorities are actively investigating allegations of sexual assault and sex trafficking involving Vince McMahon, co-founder of WWE, as reported by sources familiar with the ongoing investigation. In recent months, prosecutors in New York have engaged with women who have come forward with accusations of sexual misconduct against McMahon.
The billionaire resigned from his position as head of the wrestling empire last week, following a lawsuit filed by former WWE employee Janel Grant. Grant accused McMahon of sexually abusing her and trafficking her to other individuals within WWE. McMahon has vehemently denied these allegations and expressed confidence that the federal investigation will not uncover any wrongdoing. In a statement released last week, McMahon stated, “I intend to vigorously defend myself against these baseless accusations and look forward to clearing my name.”
Requests for comments from WWE regarding the investigation and the specific allegations made by individual women have gone unanswered. Earlier this year, federal agents executed a search warrant for McMahon’s phone and issued a subpoena requesting documents related to allegations of rape, sex trafficking, sexual assault, commercial sex transactions, harassment, or discrimination against current or former WWE employees.
Details from a grand jury subpoena, disclosed to The Wall Street Journal, provide insight into an investigation initiated in 2022. The Journal had previously reported in 2022 that McMahon had made settlements with several women who accused him of sexual misconduct during his tenure as CEO. The subpoena also sought communications between McMahon and these women, including Janel Grant.
McMahon, a prominent businessman and TV personality, resigned as executive chairman of WWE’s parent company, TKO Group, on January 26, a day after Grant’s lawsuit was filed. Grant’s legal complaint included explicit details of sexual acts and copies of explicit text messages. At least four women named in the grand jury subpoena had previously entered into settlement agreements with McMahon over allegations of sexual misconduct. Prosecutors have reportedly interviewed some of these women.
Grant’s lawsuit revealed that McMahon had agreed in 2022 to pay her $3 million to maintain silence about their relationship, which she claimed began in 2019. Grant worked in the talent-relations and legal departments at WWE from 2019 to 2022. According to her lawsuit, McMahon stopped payments after an initial $1 million wire transfer.
Other women mentioned in the grand jury subpoena include a WWE contractor who allegedly received unsolicited nude photos and faced sexual harassment; a former WWE wrestler coerced into performing oral sex by McMahon; Rita Chatterton, a former WWE referee publicly accusing McMahon of rape; a spa manager alleging assault at a Southern California resort; and a former WWE employee claiming demotion after breaking off an affair with the head of talent relations at the time, John Laurinaitis.
McMahon previously settled rape allegations made by Chatterton in the 1990s without admitting guilt. Laurinaitis, also implicated in Grant’s lawsuit, has not publicly commented on his departure from WWE. His lawyer, Edward Brennan, has denied all allegations against Laurinaitis and expressed the intent to vigorously defend him.
McMahon temporarily left WWE in 2022 during a board investigation, returning in early 2023. Following his return, he negotiated the sale of WWE to Endeavor Group, resulting in the formation of TKO Group. Until last week, McMahon served as the executive chairman of TKO Group. Securities filings from TKO Group last year had warned investors about the potential negative impact on business performance associated with McMahon’s presence on the board amid ongoing investigations and allegations.