The developers of the Tinder app have sued billionaire mogul Barry Diller’s companies, Match Group and IAC, in New York state court for allegedly engaging in misleading tactics to cause the platform to be undervalued during the media groups’ acquisition of it.
Two witnesses, former Tinder employees who began as plaintiffs in the litigation but were obligated to instead submit to arbitration, received money from a litigation funder before the trial. These witnesses have indicated that the funds they received are to compensate them for a portion of their anticipated recovery in their claims that the media company stripped them of millions of dollars’ worth of stock options when they were fired from Tinder. A judge has ruled that the payments from the litigation financing firm are legal.
Rosette Pambakian, a former Tinder marketing head, received $2.5 million before the trial and stands to be paid at least $3.5 million more if plaintiffs prevail. Tinder’s former finance chief James Kim got $2 million in 2019 and may expect another $1 million if the plaintiffs win. A third witness and former Tinder employee has not been paid before trial but will collect an unspecified amount if the plaintiffs succeed.
Lawyers for the defense have set out to paint the plaintiffs as deluded opportunists relying on conspiracy theories. Their opening statements on November 8 also suggested that Pambakian, Kim and the third witness are hired guns, asking jurors how they think the payments the witnesses received or are expecting is going to affect their testimony.
It is standard for parties to impeach each other’s witnesses at trial but somewhat novel to use the disclosure of litigation funding arrangements to do so. It will be interesting to see whether the jury will consider receiving payments—that the witnesses allege they were due, and which is entwined with the recovery sought in the case—from a litigation funder as undermining these witnesses’ credibility.
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