An Australian woman who was allegedly raped at knife point in an Airbnb apartment in New York received a secret $ 7 million settlement that included restrictions on what she could say about the incident, according to a media investigation into the policies of “Guest safety” from the vacation listing giant. .
The 29-year-old was attacked on a property near the tourist magnet and the Times Square intersection in midtown Manhattan early on New Year’s Day in 2016. Bloomberg Businessweek reported, prompting the swift intervention of an Airbnb crisis management “task force”.
The team, according to Bloomberg, “cleans up only after a disaster” and, in this case, transferred the woman to a hotel, paid her mother to fly from Australia and then returned the couple home with travel expenses. , health and counseling covered.
The subsequent settlement, the article claims, was one of the largest ever paid by the $ 90 billion company, which it said routinely spends tens of millions of dollars each year legally to resolve incidents of this kind with customers with consequences of potentially negative public relations. It also addresses issues such as the need to compensate Airbnb property hosts for damage caused by tenants.
Under the terms of a settlement negotiated with Airbnb by the woman’s attorney in New York, and paid for two years after the incident, she was barred from discussing it, suing the company or hinting that Airbnb had “responsibility or liability” for the attack.
In an email sent to The Guardian, Airbnb denied that it had tried to gag the woman. “In sexual assault cases, in the settlements we have reached, survivors can speak freely about their experiences,” said spokesman Benjamin Brait.
He did not dispute other details of the Bloomberg report, but added that Airbnb’s “trust and security”The team was an integral and open part of their overall customer support operation.
“The priority for our company and our executives was to support the survivor and do the right thing for someone who had suffered trauma,” he said.
“Our security team worked hard to support the survivor after the horrific attack. We communicate proactively with the NYPD [the New York police department] after the attack to offer our help for their investigation. “
Jim Kirk, the woman’s attorney, declined to comment, telling The Guardian in an email that “we have nothing to add to the Bloomberg article.” He said his client wished to remain anonymous and declined all requests for media interviews.
The victim and several friends had rented the apartment, one of four in the 12-apartment property in downtown Manhattan listed on Airbnb’s website, to celebrate the new year. According to police records seen by Bloomberg, she returned to the property alone and was attacked by a man with a knife who was hiding in the bathroom.
The alleged rapist, who is being held awaiting trial, was captured by the police an hour later. Apparently, he had returned to the building with a knife, one of the woman’s earrings, and a duplicate of the apartment keys.
It’s unclear how she had the set of keys, according to the report, but the women told police they had collected their own set, without being asked to provide identification, at a local convenience store, per check instructions. -in of the reservation. host.
At the time of the incident, Airbnb was embroiled in a dispute with New York City authorities over the regulation of short-term rentals of private homes. Company officials, Bloomberg said, were concerned that negative publicity about the alleged violation could affect the success of its operations.
A document seen by Bloomberg purports to show that Airbnb pays around $ 50 million a year to hosts and guests, including property damage and legal settlements.
The news organization’s investigation examined a number of incidents, including the murder of a Miami woman in Costa Rica by the security guard of the Airbnb property where he was staying, a case that the company resolved, without admitting responsibility.
In another incident, reported by The Guardian in 2017, a New Mexico woman claimed to have been sexually assaulted by a “super host” whose property she had rented.
That woman’s attorney, Teresa Li, settled the case for an undisclosed amount before it went to trial. She told Bloomberg that such settlements make it difficult for courts to decide to what extent Internet-listed companies are liable for crimes committed on their properties.
“Everything is being sent to arbitration, so no one really knows,” he said. “The only thing that really motivates [Airbnb] it’s the threat of bad public relations or a nightmare in the press. “
Shares of Airbnb, which launched as a public company on the Nasdaq New York Stock Exchange in December, fell more than 3% on Wednesday after the Bloomberg report was released, before rising again in the afternoon.
The company, founded in 2008 by entrepreneurs Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk, grew to dominate the Internet vacation listing market, but lost almost 80% of its business in eight weeks last year when the Covid-19 pandemic wiped out travel within and between many countries, causing the layoff of a quarter of its workers.
Last August, he announced that he was banning house parties and restricting the number of guests at his properties around the world in response to criticism of the rowdy lockdown gatherings.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism