January 28, 2023

Match Group, Former Employees Spar Over Handling of Sexual-Assault Allegation

When

Greg Blatt

announced his plan to resign as

Match Group Inc.

MTCH 0.26%

chief executive in 2017, the dating-app conglomerate presented the transition as orderly and planned well in advance.

Privately, executives at Match Group and its then-controlling shareholder,

IAC/InterActive Corp.

IAC -1.49%

, expressed concerns that a sexual-assault allegation against the CEO might become public and discussed how long to say the transition had been in the works, according to documents filed this week in a lawsuit the companies have been battling in New York state court. Executives also deliberated over having Mr. Blatt address the allegation, a draft resignation letter Mr. Blatt sent to independent public-relations representatives showed.

“We need to get specific on the date of when the Board adopted a CEO transition plan, and it needs to pre-date the incident for the story to be credible should all of this come to light,” said IAC communications chief Valerie Combs in a July 7, 2017, email to IAC Chief Executive

Joey Levin,

according to the filing.

Three weeks after the exchange, a press release announcing Mr. Blatt’s resignation as CEO of both Match Group and dating app Tinder didn’t mention the allegation or an investigation that Match Group conducted. IAC Chairman

Barry Diller

said in the press release that Mr. Blatt had approached him nearly a year earlier about a potential job change and that the CEO’s departure came after months of discussion and planning.

IAC, which separated from Match Group last year, said in a statement that an investigation by Match Group’s board with two outside law firms found no violation of law or company policy. Based on the investigation’s findings, there was no cause for Mr. Blatt to resign and, therefore, no cause to disclose it. “The company has nothing to hide,” a spokesperson for IAC said in a statement.

The filings surfaced as part of a lawsuit filed in 2018 over Tinder’s valuation, when early employees including Tinder co-founder Sean Rad accused Match Group and IAC of lowballing the startup’s valuation to reduce payments owed under stock options. Match Group describes the allegation as “a lawyer’s invention.”

Match Group has been working to demonstrate that it takes harassment seriously on its own online-dating platforms, which include Tinder, Match and Hinge. Match Group has invested in companies that let users run background checks on dates and that notify authorities in the event of safety concerns.

The 2018 suit included a claim from Rosette Pambakian, a former Tinder vice president, that Mr. Blatt groped and harassed her at a company party in December 2016. The suit says Match Group knew about the allegation but played it down to keep Mr. Blatt in place as he worked on the valuation, a claim that Match Group denies.

In April 2017, Mr. Rad reported the allegation to Match Group’s general counsel, the company and plaintiffs say.

Initially, one of the law firms investigating the allegation advised Match Group that it had an obligation to disclose Mr. Blatt’s conduct upon his resignation, according to testimony from Mr. Diller included in a court filing. Later, that opinion changed, the filing said. “Protecting GB is the right thing to do but GB also makes it harder every day,” Mr. Diller wrote in a 2017 email to his adviser Jack Welch, the late former CEO of General Electric Co., a copy of which was included in the filing.

Ms. Pambakian said she made 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 filing that the law firms investigating the matter never met with her.

Mr. Blatt has said in a defamation lawsuit against Ms. Pambakian that the incident was consensual. “Rad and Pambakian are lying, repeatedly and dramatically, to extort an unjustified payout from Match,” a spokesperson for Mr. Blatt said in a statement.

“This is the latest attempt by Sean Rad and his entourage to obfuscate the truth,” a Match Group representative said in a statement. “The sexual harassment claims have nothing to do with this lawsuit.”

The lawsuit is slated to go to trial in November.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs allege that a reporter’s inquiry about the assault allegation in July 2017 prompted the company to hastily plan Mr. Blatt’s exit. Mr. Blatt later sent an email to independent public-relations representatives about his planned departure, saying he showed poor judgment for “snuggling and nuzzling” with an executive at the holiday party, the filing said.

Match Group fired Ms. Pambakian in 2018. She filed a wrongful termination suit against Match Group and IAC in California state court, saying that the firing was connected to her going public with her sexual-assault allegation. Match Group has denied that claim.

Her claims in the Tinder valuation and wrongful termination suits are in arbitration because her employment agreement with Match Group required claims against the company be handled privately and not in public litigation.

Match Group said its rules regarding workplace relationships have changed since its investigation of Mr. Blatt’s conduct, saying that employees must now disclose relationships between co-workers, including managers and subordinates. Had the company’s current policy been in place in 2016, Mr. Blatt would have been required to report the incident.

Write to Georgia Wells at [email protected]

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Related Posts

Racially Diverse CFOs Are in High Demand, but Challenges Persist

May 25, 2021

May 25, 2021

More Black, Asian and Latino executives are getting to pick and choose their finance jobs, as companies look to boost...

Renault Charged in France in Emissions Fraud Probe

June 8, 2021

June 8, 2021

French authorities opened a probe in 2017 into whether Renault engaged in fraud concerning auto emissions. Photo: Laurel Chor/Bloomberg News...

SEC Considers Changes to Trump-Era Rules

June 14, 2021

June 14, 2021

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said it would consider changes to regulations passed under the Trump administration, a move...

New Study Finds Slightly Elevated Risk of Bleeding Disorders After AstraZeneca Vaccine

June 9, 2021

June 9, 2021

Researchers studying records of 1.7 million adults who received the AstraZeneca AZN 2.29% PLC Covid-19 vaccine in Scotland found a...

Luminar’s CFO Aims to Conserve Cash as Company Begins Commercial Production

June 24, 2021

June 24, 2021

Luminar Technologies Inc., which makes sensors for autonomous cars, is looking to boost production while building up a cash cushion...

Activist Likely to Gain Third Seat on Exxon Board

June 2, 2021

June 2, 2021

An activist investor is likely to pick up a third seat on the board of Exxon XOM 0.79% Mobil Corp.,...

Short-Staffed Restaurants Prop Up Table Service With Technology

June 30, 2021

June 30, 2021

Casual-dining chains are leaning on technology to make the sit-down restaurant experience more automated for guests and more streamlined for...

Biden Is Expected to Unveil $6 Trillion Spending Plan

May 28, 2021

May 28, 2021

WASHINGTON—The White House is expected to release President Biden’s first budget proposal Friday, offering new details on how the administration...

Major Internet Outage Shuts Down News, Government Websites

June 8, 2021

June 8, 2021

Dozens of websites in the U.S. and Europe were inaccessible early Tuesday, with at least one internet outage tracker reporting...

Moderna’s Covid-19 Vaccine Works Safely in Adolescents, Company Says

May 25, 2021

May 25, 2021

Moderna Inc. MRNA 1.84% said its Covid-19 vaccine was effective in children aged 12 to 17 in a new study,...

Global Ad Spending Expected to Rebound Faster Than Previously Forecast

June 14, 2021

June 14, 2021

After a reversal last year, global ad spending is forecast to snap back from the pandemic even faster than previously...

Hollywood’s Summer Blockbuster Season Comes With a Side of Studio Angst

May 22, 2021

May 22, 2021

LOS ANGELES—At a multiplex on Wednesday, Arnold Schwarzenegger led a pep rally for big-screen films ahead of the summer movie...

What Post-CEO Life Looks Like if You’re Jeff Bezos

July 2, 2021

July 2, 2021

When Jeff Bezos steps down as CEO Monday, it will be 27 years to the day he started Amazon.com Inc....

One Oil Company’s Rocky Path to Renewable Energy

June 8, 2021

June 8, 2021

For years, Danish Oil and Natural Gas Co. did what many other big oil companies do: pumped hydrocarbons out of...

Facebook Lets More Employees Choose Full-Time Remote Work or Return to the Office

June 9, 2021

June 9, 2021

Facebook Inc. is giving most of its employees a choice: Seek permission to keep working at home or go to...