John Matze, a Henderson resident and one of the founders of alternative social media site Parler, is suing the company for wrongful termination after being dismissed from his role as CEO earlier this year.
In a lawsuit filed Monday in Clark County District Court, Matze seeks “millions in compensatory” damages for an “orchestrated theft” of his 40% ownership stake in the Henderson company.
Matze and Jared Thomson co-founded Parler in 2018 as an alternative to Twitter and Facebook, which ban people for certain kinds of extreme or intentionally misleading expression not allowed under their terms of service.
A hotbed of far right activists, Parler went dark after the Jan. 6 deadly attacks on the U.S. Capitol by extremist supporters of then President Donald Trump. The events caused Apple and Google to remove Parler from their app stores and Amazon Web Services to decline hosting the site.
The lawsuit alleges that deplatforming led to Matze’s dismissal by Rebekah Mercer, another co-founder who funded Parler during its launch in 2018. She’s the daughter of Republican billionaire donor Robert Mercer.
The Mercers were also financial backers of Steven Bannon’s activities with Breitbart and Cambridge Analytica as well as early Trump supporters. They are believed to have withdrawn support for both Bannon and Trump in the early years of the Trump administration.
The lawsuit alleges that Matze “was abruptly ousted in violation of the law and public policy for endeavoring to preserve Parler’s commitment to free expression while combating any misuse by violent extremists and domestic terrorists in the wake of the January 6, 2021, attack at the U.S. Capitol. Rather than protect Parler, its other owner, Rebekah Mercer, sought to co-opt it as a symbol or as the ‘tip of the spear’ for her brand of conservatism, and plotted to force Matze out as CEO, manager, and member, and steal his forty percent (40%) ownership interest.”
Parler in January said it had more than 12 million users when it was forced offline. Many came to the site after Trump was banned from Twitter for advancing lies about election fraud and encouraging the Capitol insurrection.
The lawsuit estimates the site was worth upwards of a billion dollars, of which Matze no longer has a stake.
“This outlandish and arrogant theft, which occurred in Nevada, is the product of a conspiratorial agreement and actions taken both inside and outside of Nevada, that include intimidating threats and defamatory accusations of misconduct all designed to bully and deprive Matze of his valuable personal property and legal rights,” the suit alleges. “This scheme is epitomized by oppression, fraud and malice, for which Matze is entitled to punitive damages trebling (at a minimum) the millions that he is owed in compensatory damages.”
Matze, through his attorney James Pisanelli, wasn’t available to comment. Matze “looks forward to presenting his claims in court and being vindicated,” the attorney wrote in a statement.
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