Netflix and Amazon seem to be in a little bit of trouble.  Jerry Kowal, the former director of content at Netflix, has sued both companies based on a number of allegations, including defamation, civil conspiracy, false light invasion of privacy, intentional interference with employment relationship, wrongful termination, and blacklisting.  He is asking for at least $1,000,000 in light of the damages sustained to his reputation and career.  The official complaint can be found here.

The suit has been brought in light of a number of things that allegedly happened relating to Kowal’s resignation from Netflix back in 2013 to pursue a job with Amazon’s Digital Video team.  Kowal claims that Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos and CEO Reed Hastings had told him he would “never work in this industry again.” Kowal also claims that Sarandos and Hastings told Netflix employees to cut off communication with Kowal and that Kowal was a traitor and a thief.  The reason for the alleged mistreatment, according to Kowal, is that Netflix officers and lawyers believed he had used confidential information to compete in his new job at Amazon.  At least that’s what they claimed in a July 2013 letter they sent Kowal and Andrew DeVore, vice president and general counsel at Amazon.  This initially led to Kowal being put on mandatory leave from Amazon, having his laptop taken, and being blocked from the company’s servers.

Netflix also just so happens to be a rather large customer of Amazon, and Kowal claims that before any of the investigations were concluded, Hastings tried to use that leverage to contact senior management at Amazon and ensure that Kowal’s employment would be over when the investigations ended.  Kowal was then terminated on July 31, 2013, and told that Amazon had a strict liability policy that required his termination in light of the situation.  Kowal claims that this policy was never told to him by anyone at the company.

What do you think really happened?  One would like to think that a large, rather successful company like Netflix wouldn’t do something that is not only morally and ethically wrong, but just plain stupid, and open themselves up to this type of litigation.  However, crazier things have happened, and given Kowal’s position as a higher executive, who seemingly had a large amount of responsibility, it’s perfectly possible that there may have been some hard feelings in light of his exit.  Not only that, but business executives have been known to do some rather unethical things, so it’s also perfectly possible that Kowal isn’t the innocent victim that he claims he is.  Either way, somebody, or some company in this lawsuit made at least one, or a series of stupid mistakes, and it will be interesting to see how this lawsuit turns out.

John Lomascolo

Image Source (Netflix)

Image Source (Amazon)

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