Sexual Harassment Allegations Against Former Tinder CEO Excluded from Upcoming Trial of Founder Dispute

On July 14, 2021, a New York state judge excluded evidence of sexual harassment allegations against former Tinder CEO Gregory Blatt in the long-running litigation between the founders of Tinder and Match.

In early 2018, early employees of Tinder and Match, including co-founder Sean Rad, accused Match Group and IAC, a former controlling shareholder of Match Group, of low-balling the startup’s valuation to reduce stock option payments.  Rad and others alleged that the defendants purposefully undervalued the company and then engaged in a series of transactions that deprived the original founding group of $5.6 billion in value.  As part of the suit, the plaintiffs claimed that Match Group and IAC concealed sexual harassment allegations by Rosette Pambakian, former Tinder vice president, against Blatt so that he could be kept in place to execute the valuation scheme.

The parties have sparred in this suit and others concerning Pambakian’s harassment allegations and Match Group’s handling of the investigation of them.  Pambakian claimed that Blatt kissed and groped her in a hotel room during a company party in December 2016.  Pambakian claims that she reported the harassment to Rad, but the two outside law firms that investigated her allegations never even met with her.  Blatt filed defamation claims against Rad and Pambakian, claiming they were trying to extort money from Match Group with false allegations.  After Match Group fired Pambakian in 2018, she filed a wrongful termination suit in state court in California. 

Last week, a Supreme Court judge in New York excluded evidence of the alleged sexual harassment from the upcoming trial, finding it was immaterial to the core valuation issues in the lawsuit.  “The bottom line is after years of litigation and waves of deposition and millions of pages of documents, plaintiffs have not come up with any evidence, based on my review of the documents, of any inference that the Tinder holiday party incident and the subsequent investigation had any bearing on the valuation that this case is actually about,” the judge ruled, referencing the alleged 2016 assault.

The judge found that there was “really no evidentiary support” for a jury to draw a logical inference that the alleged cover-up of the sexual harassment allegations was connected to the plaintiffs’ core claims and that the potential prejudicial impact of the allegation on the jury “far outweighed” any evidentiary value of it.  We are certain that there will be more to report as the lawsuit proceeds to trial.