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Ex-Tinder CEO files lawsuit saying sexual assault allegations against him are defamation

The worst holiday party in Tinder history Celebrates IPO At NASDAQ Photo by Andrew Burton / Getty Images

Former Tinder CEO Greg Blatt is suing Tinder co-founder Sean Rad and the company’s former VP of marketing and communications Rosette Pambakian for defamation after Pambakian went public with sexual assault allegations against Blatt. The lawsuit seeks at least $50 million in damages.

The allegations of sexual assault first showed up in a separate lawsuit Rad is currently pursuing against Match Group and its parent company IAC. In that case, Rad claims that Match Group and IAC purposely undervalued Tinder in an effort to avoid paying millions in stock to the team’s co-founders.

Pambakian was initially part of Rad’s case, but she had to drop out because of an arbitration agreement she signed with Match. She’s now separately suing Blatt and Match Group over wrongful termination and sexual assault. Pambakian claims that Blatt assaulted her in a hotel room after a 2016 Tinder holiday party; her employment was terminated in December 2018.

Blatt’s lawsuit says Pambakian is being used by Rad to build his lawsuit against Match and that Rad — and Bench Walk Advisors, the outside firm funding Rad’s lawsuit — allegedly offered Pambakian millions of dollars to participate in the lawsuit, regardless of its outcome. Although she had to drop out of the lawsuit, Blatt claims Pambakian still received an upfront payment for her initial participation and to come forward with her allegations of assault.

This is disputed by Orin Snyder, the lawyer for Rad and Pambakian. “There were no upfront payments promised for joining the lawsuit,” Snyder said. “The only payments were triggered by IAC/Match retaliating against plaintiffs by stripping away their hard-earned equity.”

Blatt’s lawsuit also claims that Pambakian will get paid “millions” if Rad wins the case.

In his lawsuit, Blatt claims that Pambakian flirted with him routinely and that the holiday party interaction was consensual. The lawsuit says Pambakian and Blatt’s “fully-clothed bodies were in contact” and that the two kissed. Pambakian says in her lawsuit that Blatt groped her breasts and upper thighs and kissed her shoulders, neck, and chest. The two lawsuits mention that Blatt and Pambakian agreed to not speak of the incident again, but Pambakian says that she remained quiet because she feared damaging her working relationship and reputation, while Blatt’s lawsuit suggests that she did so because the situation was consensual.

Blatt cites a text message Pambakian sent the other employees who were in the hotel room as evidence of the casual nature of the interaction.

“This is a new low for IAC/Match and their former CEO,” said Snyder. “They continue to retaliate against and smear a victim of sexual assault and the person who reported it. Their attacks are based on lies and documents that are taken out of context. When all of the evidence comes to light, it will be obvious what happened here. It’s shameful that these public companies are continuing to cover-up the truth.” (IAC and Match are not involved in Blatt’s defamation suit against Rad and Pambakian.)

To bolster Blatt’s claims, his lawsuit cites emails in which Pambakian says she didn’t know who told Rad about the interaction and that she wanted to move on from the situation. Other emails and texts from Pambakian to Blatt suggest a flirty relationship; Pambakian, for instance, told Blatt that he’s “still gorgeous” even with an eye infection that they discussed over email.

In a draft of Blatt’s resignation letter from Tinder obtained by The Verge, he admits to the hotel room situation and says that what he calls “snuggling and nuzzling” were consensual. There were four people in the hotel room, including Blatt, and the resignation letter says he apologized to both women present. “The executive with whom I had been flirting returned the apology, saying ‘It was as much me as you,’” he wrote. After a later complaint from someone who hadn’t been present at the hotel room, Match Group launched an investigation. Blatt’s eventual departure had nothing to do with the decision to leave Tinder or Match Group, he wrote in the letter.

In a separate April 2018 exchange, nearly two years after the hotel room incident, Pambakian invites Blatt to an event where Cher, Katie Couric, Monica Lewinsky, and other celebrities would be attending. Blatt didn’t make it to the event, and his lawsuit claims that was their last interaction before Pambakian and Rad went public with their lawsuit in August 2018.

Update October 3rd, 6:48PT: Adds Orin Snyder’s statement disputing the filing’s claims about upfront payments to Pambakian.