Amazon, Netflix sued by ex-content buyer

Amazon and Netflix are being sued for US$1 million-plus by a former employee of both companies over allegations of wrongful dismissal.

Jerry Kowal, who was director of content acquisitions at Netflix before joining Amazon’s Digital Video team, alleges Netflix used its position as a key Amazon customer – Netflix uses Amazon cloud storage services – to get him fired from his new role.

Kowal is suing for defamation, false light invasion of privacy, civil conspiracy, intentional interference of employment relationship, blacklisting and wrongful termination at a Californian Superior Court. He wants a jury case to be heard.

Kowal, who as Netflix’s content acquisitions director was responsible for buying television programming for territories such as Canada, said the case was a “David vs Goliath” battle.

Among his claims, Kowal alleges that after a year working in Netflix’s “cutthroat” work environment, he was offered a job at Amazon, which he accepted and subsequently began in June 2013.

Netflix did “everything it could to dissuade him” to leave but was unsuccessful. Kowal claims the streaming service then claimed Kowal stored and disclosed confidential information, before blacklisting him and prohibiting its employees from communicating with their former colleague.

Furthermore, Kowal alleges Netflix attempted to ruin his reputation, and leveraged its relationship with Amazon to ensure he was later fired.

Kowal’s filing said he was placed on mandatory leave at Amazon while the claims against him were investigated, including having his personal computer devices turned over for forensic analysis on the advice on counsel.

He alleges these searches turned up no evidence of wrongdoing, and was told by Amazon to meet with Harry Korrell, a partner at an Amazon-affiliated law firm, who ensured him the situation would “all blow over”.

He claims Amazon then agreed Korrell would represent both the business and Kowal in any proceeding litigation, but this was cancelled a short time later and Kowal was then subsequently fired.

Netflix nor Amazon could be contacted at press time, but the Hollywood Reporter quoted a Netflix rep saying the company did not comment on pending litigation.

In related news, Netflix is partnering with Gaumont International Television on Narcos, a retelling of violet drug trafficker Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel, starring Brazilian movie actor Wagner Moura and with the acclaimed director Jose Padilha attached (the pair worked together to create the Elite Squad movies). The series will launch on the service in 2015.

“Jose and Wagner together created one of the most sophisticated and chilling portraits of criminality and official corruption ever in their Elite Squad movies,” said Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos. “Their version of the Escobar saga will be like nothing ever seen before.”

Netflix has lost out on upcoming 24 reboot LIve Another Day after Amazon Instant Video secured an exclusive deal for all 24 seasons past and present. Netflix previously offered seasons of the show, but these will now drop out of its offer.