I'm interested in how confidentiality agreements, like the alleged settlement money that Kevin Clash's first accuser supposedly got for his silence, work. What can Clash do now that the accuser is apparently talking again?
—Dread Not, via Facebook
The whole situation involving Clash, his two accusers, Elmo, the Sesame Street Workshop, and their various allegations and statements adds up to a mess so big even the Count can't keep track of it all.
But I can tell you this: Yes, there are reports that the first accuser got paid. Yes, he may blab about Clash anyway, and I may have the reason why.
First the basics: If Clash's first accuser, aspiring model Sheldon Stephens, did agree to a cash payout in exchange for silence about the nature of their relationship, that would be pretty common around here.
Hollywood loves a good hush-hush payoff, and if Clash just wanted to shut Stephens up, six figures are pretty much the way to do it.
"That's very common in the entertainment industry," Dan Grigsby of law firm Jeffer Mangels tells me.
According to TMZ, Stephens may be having second thoughts about that apparent agreement and may want to undo it.
You won't be surprised to learn that these kinds of settlement generally call for the hush money to be returned if an accuser, well, stops hushing.
"It's not like the agreement is going to let the other party keep the money if they talk anyway," Grigsby points out.
Grigsby tells me there are often punitive clauses in these agreements, too: wording that requires the blabber to shell out additional cash along with the repayment if he violates the settlement.
Even then, the accuser may be in for sticker shock.
"You may have a liquidated damages provision specifying a certain amount," Grigsby explains. Such provisions are more common when a specific job like Clash's isn't on the line, but don't be shocked if there was such a provision in Stephens's agreement anyway.
How much, you may ask?
"It wouldn't surprise me," Bryan Sullivan of the firm Early Sullivan posits, "to see anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million," or even more.
So, assuming there was such a gag agreement, why might Stephens be thinking of opening his mouth anyway?
"Maybe he thinks he can make even more money by talking," Sullivan points out.
And there it is. How much would you pay to hear what Stephens had to say?