IAC Sues Tinder Co-Founder Sean Rad, Seeks $250 Million In Damages

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The online dating wars just got uglier. Match Group and its owner, IAC/InterActiveCorp, have filed a lawsuit accusing Tinder co-founder and former CEO Sean Rad of stealing company files and other proprietary information. The lawsuit claims at least $250 million in damages.

The last few years have been tumultuous for Rad and Tinder. After Whitney Wolfe Herd, a fellow co-founder of Tinder, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company in 2014, Rad stepped down as CEO. Herd went on to found Bumble. Rad returned as CEO of Tinder six months after vacating the position. He stepped aside as CEO for good to become Tinder's chairman in 2016.

In August 2018, a group of current and former Tinder employees, including Rad, filed a lawsuit against IAC. The suit alleges that IAC intentionally undervalued Tinder to reduce the value of stock options held by early employees and founders. “Through deception, bullying, and outright lies, IAC/Match stole billions of dollars from the Tinder employees,” the lawsuit reads. “IAC/Match cooked the books to manufacture a fake lowball valuation of Tinder.” The plaintiffs are seeking at least $2 billion in damages.

IAC responded by filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, saying Rad “fully participated in the valuation process” of Tinder. “When the banks determined Tinder’s value Rad exercised his options and cashed out as soon as was permissible,” a Match Group spokesperson said in a statement. “In doing so, Sean Rad bet against Tinder, and then watched from the sidelines as Match’s stock increased 150 percent. He cannot unwind that gamble now simply because he regrets it.”

This latest lawsuit, filed by Match Group and IAC in New York state court in Manhattan on January 15, alleges that Rad violated an employment agreement by creating backups of internal emails, forwarding company emails to a personal email address, and directly copying company files containing “highly sensitive, non-public information concerning his employers’ business strategies and plans.” Match Group and IAC say the $250 million in damages represents “the portion of the equity compensation Rad received but that he was not entitled to by virtue of his wrongdoing.”

Orin Snyder, a lawyer for Rad, called the lawsuit “ridiculous” in a statement and claimed Rad's employment contract allowed him to back up his email. “Do IAC and Match really think the jury won't see right through this desperate act of retaliation?” Snyder added.

The answer to that question is anyone’s guess, but one thing is clear: this very public fight is unlikely to end any time soon.