Tinder fires employees who sued its parent companies

Tinder this week fired multiple employees who were part of a $2 billion lawsuit against the dating app's par...

Posted: Dec. 19, 2018 10:42 AM
Updated: Dec. 19, 2018 10:42 AM

Tinder this week fired multiple employees who were part of a $2 billion lawsuit against the dating app's parent companies, Match Group and IAC/InterActiveCorp. Among the fired employees was Rosette Pambakian, who was Tinder's vice president of marketing and communications.

The lawsuit was brought in August by the co-founders of Tinder and several other employees. It alleged that current owners manipulated the company's valuation to deny them millions. The suit also alleged that Tinder's former CEO, Greg Blatt, sexually harassed Pambakian.

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Pambakian sent an email to Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg and Tinder CEO Elie Seidman on Tuesday, claiming she was fired in "blatant retaliation" for her involvement in the suit, which she has since withdrawn from due to an arbitration clause.

Match spokeswoman Justine Sacco confirmed to CNN Business that a number of employees were terminated for, she said, being "unable to fulfill their job responsibilities." The employees were initially placed on paid administrative leave in August. The Verge was the first to report the news of the firings.

Blatt was named CEO of Tinder in late 2016. The lawsuit alleges Blatt groped and sexually harassed Pambakian at a company holiday party shortly after taking on the role. The suit also alleges that when Tinder co-founder Sean Rad informed IAC of Blatt's conduct, it was covered up and Blatt was kept as CEO.

"To make matters worse, you told the world that a sham investigation (in which I was never even interviewed) determined the assault was some sort of 'consensual cuddling,'" Pambakian said in her email, which was obtained by CNN Business.

Blatt did not comment when the initial lawsuit was filed and could not be reached for comment for this story.

Pambakian wrote that she was put on leave immediately after filing the suit and faced continued pressure from within the company to resign. She was fired the day before her remaining stock options vested, she said. The company and Ginsberg denied this.

The other central allegation in the suit is that Match Group and IAC manipulated Tinder's valuation in order to deny the plaintiffs millions of dollars in stock options.

The suit alleges executives worked to have two Wall Street banks undervalue Tinder in 2017 at $3 billion. That was the same as a valuation done two years earlier, despite rapid growth in revenue and subscribers, according to the plaintiffs' original filing in the case. If the valuation was downplayed, it would negatively affect how much money the co-founders and early employees received.

Tinder asked a judge to throw out the suit in October, claiming the co-founders had taken too long to file the suit.

Match Group CEO Ginsberg responded to Pambakian on Tuesday with an email of her own, which was also obtained by CNN Business. In it, she claimed Pambakian never filed a complaint about Blatt and was interviewed twice for the investigation into the harassment allegations. Ginsberg said Pambakian wasn't fired for speaking out against Blatt.

"You were terminated because it was not possible for you to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of your role as Tinder's spokesperson for a number of reasons, including your public position against the company over a valuation process," Ginsberg wrote.

In a follow-up email to Ginsberg, obtained by CNN Business, Pambakian said she did report the alleged "sexual assault" to HR.

Pambakian said she was also asked to sign a non-disparagement agreement in "exchange for compensation." She said a representative from human resources described what Blatt had done as a "terrible ordeal." Pambakian said she refused in writing to sign the NDA. The company denied trying to force her to sign an NDA.

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