Monday, June 13, 2011

Eleventh Circuit Reverses Judgment Against News America Whistleblower

On June 8, 2011, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal reversed a trial court's entry of summary judgment for breach of contract against Robert Emmel, a whistleblower who provided evidence of News America Marketing's anticompetitive behavior.

After his employment at News America was terminated in late November 2006, Mr. Emmel entered into a non-disclosure agreement with News on December 21, 2006. The day before signing the agreement, Mr. Emmel mailed confidential News America information to a Senate staffer. The lower court found that Mr. Emmel had breached the non-disclosure agreement, as the mailing was not delivered until after he signed the December 21, 2006 agreement. The Eleventh Circuit disagreed, finding that the contract only barred future disclosures, and did not extend to prior mailings. The case has been remanded to the trial court for further proceedings, during which Mr. Emmel is temporarily enjoined from further disclosures absent a court-ordered subpoena.

News America has spent substantial resources trying to prevent Mr. Emmel from sharing his knowledge because it implicated News America in major lawsuits brought by Valassis, Insignia, and Floorgraphics, all of which have settled -- for $500 million, $125 million, and $29.5 million respectively. With the settlement of those cases, the value of Mr. Emmel's testimony has diminished -- though there's a possibility that News America could be the target of related lawsuits, including possible lawsuits by consumer goods manufacturers who may have been overcharged for advertising by News America.

Related article: BNET

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