On Wednesday morning, an unexpected email hit the inboxes of New York media reporters. It said that Bo Dietl, the private eye and former mayoral hopeful, had created a “MeToo investigative platform” that would allow employees to report sexual misconduct and harassment. The email also said that Douglas Elliman was a client, and there would be a joint press conference on Thursday featuring Dietl and two top staffers at Elliman.
There was one significant problem: Elliman employees were totally blindsided, a person familiar with the situation told The Real Deal on Thursday.
The brokerage “never had and never will engage in such a platform,” the person said.
On Thursday, Dietl also backed down on the company’s participation.
“If they choose not to have a statement that they are involved with me in any way, I respect that,” he said on Thursday. “I apologize to Howard Lorber and Douglas Elliman.” He went on to say that he would not confirm or deny the identity of his clients. (On Wednesday, he told The Real Deal that Elliman was a client but hadn’t wanted to talk about it publicly.)
Dietl blamed his public relations firm, Ronn Torossian’s 5W PR, for an invitation that referred to Elliman as the first corporate client of the platform. He also said the invitation falsely stated that Elliman’s general counsel and vice president of human resources would be featured speakers at the event. 5W hasn’t commented on what happened.
The press conference — which was slated for Thursday morning — was canceled on Wednesday just a few hours after the firm sent out the invitation. According to 5W, it was canceled due to “inclement weather.”
Dietl said his firm is now hosting the press conference on March 6 and has invited the city’s top builders, real estate investment trusts and other companies to attend. Elliman won’t participate, sources said.
The announcement yesterday was surprising for several reasons. Real estate companies — and corporations in general — don’t typically advertise their human resources practices. Additionally, Dietl has repeatedly been linked to investigations involving Roger Ailes — the Wall Street Journal reported in 2017 that Fox hired Dietl to discredit two of Ailes’ accusers.
“Just because a company hires us, doesn’t mean they need it,” Dietl said. “If a corporation hires us, that does not mean there is a problem. What they are saying is ‘I want to let my employees know that there’s another avenue to report the findings.'”
He said the platform would help curb legal action against corporations by providing an independent avenue for employees to file complaints of misconduct or harassment. He added that his system could help “remediate” situations “before something happens that’s really bad.”
“We can maybe get to that person who is making those bad jokes, and say hey, wait a second, you can’t say something like “wow, you have great legs” because that’s offensive to that female. These are things that we can stop and remediate from the beginning. Times have changed with the political correctness… Look, I’m 68 years old, what I used to do when I was 23, you can’t do today. People have to realize this.”