Four Tinder plaintiffs — Rosette Pambakian, Joshua Metz, Jonathan Badeen, and James Kim — are voluntarily withdrawing from their Match Group / IAC lawsuit today, claiming the company covertly tried to enact an arbitration agreement during their employment. All four plaintiffs worked at Tinder, which Match Group owns, up until they filed the lawsuit. At that point, Match / IAC placed them on administrative leave. They all seemingly signed the arbitration agreement.
In a comment to The Verge, Pambakian said:
“Just months after cheating Tinder employees out of billions of dollars, IAC / Match tried changing its policies in an attempt to force all current employees out of a public courtroom before a jury and into secret arbitration. IAC / Match did this only after carrying out their scheme. Let me be very clear: IAC / Match will be held accountable and we will continue to support the lawsuit 100% as it unfolds in New York state court.”
Match spokesperson Justine Sacco issued a comment to The Verge in response and said:
All Match Group employees, including those who work at Tinder, sign the same industry standard arbitration agreement, and these plaintiffs are no exception. Any suggestion otherwise is nonsense. Each plaintiff voluntarily signed the agreement, which is clearly identified as an arbitration agreement and easily understood by any employee or lawyer who takes the time to review the contract.”
The team’s lawyers wouldn’t comment on whether their withdrawal is permanent, but because it’s “without prejudice,” they could theoretically rejoin. The team also declined to comment as to whether or why Pambakian and the others signed the agreement. An arbitration agreement is a contract clause that prevents employees from taking legal concerns to court.
Instead, they have to settle them privately with their employer. It’s unclear why these plaintiffs would voluntarily sign an arbitration agreement, especially if they had been planning a lawsuit. Most likely, the plaintiffs didn’t read their new contract closely or even realize what it said.
Match / IAC filed a motion immediately after this lawsuit’s filing earlier this month requesting a change of venue from a state court to a federal one. They withdrew that motion, but buried in it was a mention of this arbitration agreement and the company’s plans to possibly enforce it. The case is still set to be tried in the New York Supreme Court. Ultimately, this plaintiff change doesn’t really affect the lawsuit. Tinder co-founder Sean Rad can still argue his case that Match purposely undervalued Tinder in an effort to avoid paying out lots of money in share options.
Update 9/4, 9:57 AM ET: Updated to include Match Group’s comment.