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Federal prosecutors are examining whether 21st Century Fox failed to properly report financial settlements of sexual harassment claims against the former head of its Fox News cable network, Roger Ailes.

Judd Burstein, an attorney representing former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros in her sexual harassment claim, made the disclosure in state court in New York on Wednesday, report David J Lynch in Washington and Kara Scannell in San Francisco.

During a hearing on Ms Tantaro’s lawsuit, Burstein said he had received a grand jury subpoena on Monday as part of a federal investigation directed by the US attorney for the Southern District of New York’s securities fraud unit.

An attorney for Fox News said it had not received a similar subpoena. However, a spokesperson for 21st Century Fox and Fox News confirmed that it had been in discussions with the US Attorney’s office “for several months.”

The US attorney’s office and the Securities and Exchange Commission declined to comment.

“My sense is it’s just the beginning,” Mr Burstein said in a telephone interview. “They have been settling these cases quietly by treating non-employees as employees,” he added.

One person familiar with the investigation said it was looking into whether the company failed to disclose settlements for years and whether that violated securities laws.

Last summer, Mr Ailes was forced out of the network he helped found after a sexual harassment lawsuit from another former presenter, Gretchen Carlson. He has denied the allegations.

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