Republican gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner on Thursday defended his role in a case brought against him by a former female CEO that’s been the subject of a TV attack ad, saying his firm settled part of the case “because we’re nice folks.”
The ad cites a court deposition claiming Rauner, through an intermediary, communicated a threat to “bankrupt” and “bury her,” if the CEO filed a lawsuit against him and his Chicago-based investment firm, GTCR.
“He’s running an ad based upon a frivolous lawsuit, allegation,” Rauner said in an interview with the Sun-Times. “It was thrown out in court, it was dismissed in summary judgment. So boom. Out. Gone.”
Rauner acknowledged a portion of the case with former Leapsource CEO Christine Kirk was settled. However, he said it wasn’t an admission of wrongdoing but: “because we’re nice folks. We treat people well,” Rauner said. “This is for legal expenses, is nothin’.”
Rauner outright denied that he ever communicated a threat and said that sworn depositions in the case contradict one another.
“In my deposition, I wasn’t even asked about it. This is, you know what, lawsuits contain a lot of false accusations,” Rauner said. “That’s what a lot of lawsuits often have. This is false, it’s a false accusation.”
Kirk’s former Phoenix lawyer, Scot Stirling, told the Sun-Times that Rauner mischaracterized what happened in U.S. District Judge Robert C. Broomfield’s courtroom and disputed the idea a settlement was driven merely by GTCR’s generosity.
“Being ‘nice guys’ certainly had nothing to do with the ultimate settlement of the case,” Stirling said.
In his March 30, 2007 decision that tossed the majority of counts in the lawsuit, Broomfield made clear he wasn’t ruling on the validity of specific evidence such as the threats Kirk said Rauner made to her, Stirling said.
“The court may not make credibility determinations; nor may it weigh conflicting evidence,” the judge wrote.
The case “was not thrown out completely,” Stirling said. “The judge never said it was frivolous. The judge never said these statements quoted in the complaint were not true. He never decided that issue at all, and he couldn’t have decided that on a summary judgment motion.”