A Los Angeles judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by entertainment news site the Wrap, which claimed one of its writers had been "wrongfully poached" by another publication despite a noncompete clause in his contract.
Jessica Lessin, founder and editor of news website the Information, called the suit a "shakedown," and, in a decision handed down Tuesday in Santa Monica, Judge Mark A. Young dismissed the complaint.
The decision brings to an end a yearlong lawsuit between the Wrap and the Information, two competing publications, after business and entertainment reporter Matt Pressberg was hired by the Information just weeks after leaving the Wrap.
"While some urged us to settle, to avoid the cost of litigation, I felt it was completely wrong to cave to what I regarded as an extortion attempt," Lessin wrote in an email to staff Wednesday. "This was a publication [the Wrap] that I believed was trying to cripple us."
In his decision, Young said attorneys for the Wrap had failed to prove that the Information knew about the prior contract Pressberg had before he was offered a job, and that the contract itself was void under California law, which prohibits contracts that prevent people from engaging in their profession.
The lawsuit was filed in October 2018 and alleged that "The Information wrongfully poached Mr. Pressberg to leave The Wrap to commence employment at The Information."
Attorneys also accused the Information of pushing Pressberg "to get The Wrap's confidential and proprietary information concerning ints business efforts in China and use that information to wrongfully profit, at The Wrap's expense."
Pressberg had entered into a two-year agreement with the Wrap in November 2016, which included a clause that prevented him from being "employed or otherwise engage in or be interested in any other business," according to the complaint.
Attorneys for the Information argued it was unaware of the contract when Pressberg was offered a position as its Hollywood entertainment reporter in late 2017, and that the contract he had with the Wrap was invalid because of the noncompete clause, saying it was tantamount it to "indentured servitude."
The Information has filed a countersuit against the Wrap, arguing that it has sought to disrupt its business relationships, threatened its employees, and tried to bar it from hiring talented reporters and writers.
"I'm glad the court found this lawsuit to be completely baseless," Lessin told BuzzFeed News in an email. "Just as we've stood up to bullies in our reporting, we'll do the same to protect our business as public figures and publications come after us."