Sony Pictures, former employees reach tentative settlement over data breach

By Jessica Karmasek | Sep 8, 2015

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) - It looks as though Sony Pictures Entertainment has reached a tentative settlement with former employees over a computer system breach that released their personal information -- including thousands of Social Security numbers -- to the public last year.

According to a filing in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California last week, the plaintiffs and Sony have reached an agreement “in principle” to settle all of the claims of the putative class against Sony.

The tentative deal was reached Sept. 1, according to an eight-page stipulation filed Wednesday.

No further details about the settlement were provided.

In December, former employees Michael Corona and Christina Mathis filed a class action complaint against Sony, seeking more than $5 million in damages.

Their complaint was filed a month after it came to light that a hacker group called “Guardians of Peace” or “GOP” broke into Sony’s computer system and servers and stole tons of data, including emails between employees, information about executive salaries, copies of previously unreleased Sony films and more than 47,000 Social Security numbers.

The cyber attack has been linked to the movie The Interview, a comedy, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

U.S. intelligence officials have alleged the attack was sponsored by North Korea; the country has denied all responsibility.

The plaintiffs in the class action alleged that Sony knew about the possible risks and vulnerabilities in its computer system following an April 2011 hack of its PlayStation video game network, but failed to do anything about it.

They also alleged they are at an increased risk of fraud and identity theft because of the 2014 data breach.

Corona, who worked for Sony Pictures from 2004 to 2007, said in the original complaint he spends about $700 a year on identity theft protection and believes he will have to spend more because of the hack. Mathis worked for Sony from 2000 to 2002.

A class certification hearing was originally set for Sept. 14; however, both sides have asked the court for a 45-day delay of all deadlines to “allow the parties sufficient time to complete settlement documentation” and present the settlement to the court for preliminary approval.

According to last week’s stipulation, the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary approval of the proposed settlement will be filed no later than Oct. 19.

San Francisco law firm Girard Gibbs LLP, New York firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, and Seattle-based Keller Rohrback LLP were appointed interim co-lead class counsel in the case.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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