Nick Clegg, Other Meta Executives ‘Inadvertently’ Identified in OnlyFans Bribery Suit

Nick Clegg, Other Meta Executives ‘Inadvertently’ Identified in OnlyFans Bribery Suit

Three Meta executives have been identified by name — reportedly by mistake — in a California federal lawsuit brought by adult entertainers alleging bribery and abuse of internet databases designed to flag terrorist content and other online threats.

In a court filing Tuesday, Nick Clegg, Meta’s vice president of global affairs, and Nicola Mendelsohn, vice president of Meta’s global business team, were identified as the former “John Does” in a suit accusing them of accepting bribes on behalf of the company OnlyFans as part of a scheme to help that platform dominate its adult industry rivals.

Unnamed Meta employees were accused this February in an ongoing lawsuit of working under the table to secretly help OnlyFans by getting its competitors “blacklisted” online. The suit was filed in a San Francisco federal court by a group of adult online entertainers who’ve alleged Meta employees added their accounts and others linked to OnlyFans competitors to databases used by companies internationally to identify malware and accounts linked to terrorism.

Last week, an attorney for the entertainers introduced what they claimed were copies of wire transfers provided by an anonymous tipster. The alleged transfers — which have not been seen by Gizmodo and remain under seal — were used in court to support the claims that three Meta executives took payments from an OnlyFans intermediary that shared a physical address with an affiliated corporate entity.

In addition to Clegg and Mendelsohn, a third employee, Cristian Perrella, was identified in Tuesday’s filing. (A Meta employee with the same name is currently employed as a Facebook trust and safety director, according to a LinkedIn page.)

Meta, broadly speaking, denied the claims in response to a press inquiry. However, in court, its lawyers are focused less on whether the allegations are false, and more on whether, even if true, the company would be legally liable. OnlyFans, meanwhile, has repeatedly said the allegations are “meritless,” a legal term of art referring to allegations that aren’t actionable, whether they’re true or not.

“As we make clear in our motion to dismiss, we deny these allegations as they lack facts, merit, or anything that would make them plausible. The allegations are baseless,” a Meta spokesperson said.

Lawyers representing OnlyFans’ parent company, Fenix Internet, LLC, said in a subsequent filing on Wednesday that it had exposed the identity of Meta’s executives by mistake. The names of the employees were “inadvertently unredacted,” it said while asking the court to delete the document. (In its own motion, Meta referred to the executives as the “John Does” and redacted several whole paragraphs referencing the execs.)

The lawsuit, brought by three adult entertainers — Dawn Dangaard, Kelly Gilbert, and Jennifer Allbaugh — was filed specifically against Meta and its subsidiaries Facebook and Instagram; OnlyFans parent company Fenix Internet; and OnlyFans owner Leonid Radvinsky, whose financial history has been exhaustively investigated by Forensic News.

Another company, Fenix International, is also named and is alleged by the plaintiffs to have served as an intermediary for the bribes.

The wire transfer documents, according to the plaintiffs, point to funds going to two trust accounts in the Philippines under Meta executives’ names. A third account, the documents say, was opened in the name of a “high-ranking Facebook executive’s young son.”

Caroline Nolan, Meta’s vice president of public affairs, responded to an email sent to Clegg’s email address, saying, “The claims are false.” Attempts to directly contact Perrella and Mendelsohn, both apparently working out of the U.K., were unsuccessful.

Meta argued in a motion on Tuesday that an amended complaint filed by the plaintiffs had not met requirements for standing under what’s known as the Twiqbal test — a portmanteau of two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, which established a “plausibility” standard that has ostensibly made it more difficult to sue in federal court.

“It used to be you come into court and if the thing that you said would be a claim, that’s good enough, because it’s possible,” said Dan Novack, a media and First Amendment attorney and associate general counsel at Penguin Random House. “Plausible requires judges to use some level of reasoning to decide whether or not it’s realistic, that this thing could really have legs.”

“It’s not as though it’s supposed to be dramatically harder to get a case into federal court than it used to be,” said Novack, who spoke only generally because he’s not read in on the case at hand. “There is flexibility because obviously any plaintiff coming into court doesn’t have the benefit of going through discovery and subpoenas and getting depositions. It would put them in a Catch-22 if they had to have a smoking gun because sometimes the point of the lawsuit is to gather information about the case and be able to move forward. But they have to have something, some evidence — even if circumstantial — that shows the defendant did the thing they are alleging.”

Meta’s motion to dismiss also focused over several pages on whether the company could even be held liable if the allegations turned out to be true. The allegations, it said, are “flatly inconsistent with any argument that the employees were acting with actual authority.”

To demonstrate precedent, Meta attorneys cited a 1995 case involving a woman who sued a hospital after being molested by a hospital employee during a medical procedure. The California Supreme Court ruled at the time that the hospital was not itself “vicariously” liable for the assault, as it had served only the employee’s “personal interest,” and was not “engendered by” or “incidental to” their employment.

“If anything, plaintiffs allege that these John Does went rogue by manipulating and corrupting automated processes and databases that Meta had established for purposes of combating terrorism, deploying those methods to attack competitors of an adult-entertainment company, and then ‘attempt[ing] to cover their tracks’ to ensure Meta could not learn of their aberrant behaviour,” Meta’s motion says.

Meta further argued that, even if true, any decisions to penalise OnlyFans’ competitors would have been protected by the company’s First Amendment rights, and the limited liability protections offered by Section 320 of the Communications Decency Act.

This is a developing story.

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