Match Group and former employees spared from handling sexual assault allegations
When Greg Blatt announced his intention to step down as a Match Group Inc.
CEO in 2017, the dating app conglomerate touted the transition as orderly and planned well in advance.
Privately, executives at Match Group and its then majority shareholder, IAC / InterActive Corp., expressed concern that a sexual assault allegation against the CEO would become public and discussed how many time to say the transition was underway, according to documents filed this week in a lawsuit that the companies are fighting in New York state court. Executives also deliberated to ask Mr Blatt to respond to the allegation, a draft resignation letter Mr Blatt sent to independent public relations representatives showed.
“We need to clarify the date the board adopted a CEO transition plan, and it needs to be prior to the incident for the story to be credible if any of this were to come to light,” said Valerie. Combs, IAC communications manager. a July 6, 2017 email to IAC CEO Joey Levin, according to the filing.
Three weeks after the exchange, a press release announcing Mr. Blatt’s resignation as CEO of Match Group and the dating app Tinder did not mention the allegation or investigation by Match Group. IAC Chairman Barry Diller said in the press release that Mr Blatt had approached him almost a year earlier about a potential job change and that the CEO’s departure came after months of discussion and planning.
IAC, which split from Match Group last year, said in a statement that an investigation by the Match Group board of directors with two outside law firms did not reveal any violations of the law. or company policy. Based on the investigation’s findings, there was no reason for Mr Blatt to resign and, therefore, no reason to disclose it, the company said. “The company has nothing to hide,” an IAC spokesperson said in a statement.
The applicants allege that the investigation into Mr. Blatt’s conduct was “grossly deficient”; they want the court to give them access to the documents related to this investigation, which they call a sham.
The cases surfaced in a 2018 lawsuit over Tinder’s rating, when early employees, including Tinder co-founder Sean Rad, accused Match Group and IAC of downsizing. assessment of the startup to reduce the payments due under stock options. Match Group describes the allegation as “the invention of a lawyer”.
Match Group strives to demonstrate that it takes harassment seriously on its own online dating platforms, including Tinder, Match and Hinge. Match Group has invested in companies that allow users to perform background checks on dates and notify authorities in case of security concerns. The 2018 lawsuit included a claim by Rosette Pambakian, a former vice president of Tinder, that Mr. Blatt groped and harassed her at a company party in December 2016. The lawsuit says Match Group was at the aware of the allegation but downplayed it to keep Mr. Blatt. in place while working on the assessment, a claim that Match Group denies.
In April 2017, Mr Rad reported the allegation to Match Group’s general counsel, according to the company and the complainants.
Initially, one of the law firms investigating the allegation informed Match Group that it had an obligation to disclose Mr. Blatt’s conduct upon his resignation, according to Mr. Diller’s testimony included in a file. judicial. That opinion later changed, according to the record. “Protecting GB is the right thing to do, but GB also makes it harder every day,” Diller wrote in a 2017 email to his advisor Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric Co., a copy of which has been included in the deposit.
Ms Pambakian said she made it clear to Match Group executives after Mr Rad reported the allegation that Mr Blatt’s actions “were neither welcome nor consensual,” according to the filing. She also said in the file that the law firms investigating the case never met with her.
Mr Blatt said in a defamation lawsuit against Ms Pambakian that the incident was consensual. “Rad and Pambakian lie, repeatedly and dramatically, to extort wrongful payment from Match,” a spokesperson for Mr. Blatt said in a statement.
“This is the latest attempt by Sean Rad and his entourage to cover up the truth,” a Match Group representative said in a statement. “The allegations of sexual harassment have nothing to do with this lawsuit.”
The trial is due to go to trial in November.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs allege that a reporter’s investigation into the assault allegation in July 2017 prompted the company to hastily plan Mr Blatt’s departure. Mr Blatt then emailed independent public relations representatives about his planned departure, claiming he had shown poor judgment to ‘snuggle and snuggle’ with a frame during the holiday party, according to the record.
Match Group fired Ms Pambakian in 2018. She filed an unfair dismissal lawsuit against Match Group and IAC in California state court, claiming the dismissal was related to her going public with her allegation of sexual assault. Match Group has denied this claim.
His claims in the Tinder review and unfair dismissal lawsuits are being arbitrated because his employment contract with Match Group required that claims against the company be dealt with in private and not in litigation. public.
Match Group said its rules regarding workplace relationships have changed since its investigation into Mr Blatt’s conduct, saying employees are now required to disclose relationships between co-workers, including managers and subordinates. Had the current company policy been in place in 2016, Mr. Blatt would have been required to report the incident.
Corrections and amplifications
The chief communications officer of IAC sent an email to the CEO of IAC explaining how to describe the succession plans of the CEO of Tinder on July 6, 2017. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the email was sent on July 7, 2017. (Corrected May 29.)
Write to Georgia Wells at [email protected]
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