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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Hacking Can Be Costly


By Thomas Eden

On Thursday an ex-CBS news anchor in Philadelphia, Lawrence Mendte, formally apologized in a court document to his former TV co-anchor. This was all part of a written settlement lawsuit over information he hacked from her email account.  The original lawsuit was for $15 million filed in 2008. It was claimed that Mendte spread what he learned in the emails to other news outlets. The case was set for trial on Monday. 

According to the suit, Mendte used KeyCatcher, a computer program that records keyboard and mouse activity, to get the passwords to his co-worker’s work and personal emails, which he used to break into her account more than 7,000 times over the course of two years. Mendte pled guilty in 2008 to federal criminal charges related to the email intrusion and was fired from CBS. He was later sentenced to six months of house arrest and probation. In the lawsuit, CBS was accused of negligence for its allegedly inadequate investigation of complaints that the co-worker’s email was being hacked.



Larry Mendte admitted in the Court Document the following: 


“I deeply regret my actions with respect to Alycia Lane (Plaintiff) and the harm that I caused her. I repeatedly and illegally invaded her personal e-mail accounts, obtained personal information and fed stories to the press to make it appear as if she was carrying on inappropriate relationships with men, which was untrue and unfair. In the end, I harmed her career and I clearly caused her undue and considerable emotional distress. I am deeply sorry for that. Alycia is an accomplished journalist.  I wish her and her family the best in the Future."
Additionally the judge issued the following Order against Mendle and CBS, PERMANENTLY ENJOINING them from directly or indirectly:

(1) making any comments about Plaintiff on any subject and in any public or private medium;

(2) disparaging or demeaning Plaintiff;

(3) releasing to anyone for any reason any information relating to Plaintiff that was ever in Mendte's possession that he saw or received during his employment with CBS from 2003 until the date of his termination in  2008; and

(4) releasing to any person any pleading, discovery document, testimony, or electronic communication that formed a part of the above captioned action, or any terms of the Settlement Agreement, unless Mendte has requested and received prior consent of the Court, without divulging any confidential or prohibited  information, and after notice to Lane's counsel.

Common Sense Counsel: this costly hacking case should you leave every employer with 3 thoughts: 1) I would hate to be that guy who was publically humiliated, or his employer; 2) cyber security will be on the top of my 2017 resolutions lists; and 3) I need to have in place a process so that every employee complaint is internally heard and responded to in a respectfully manner before it blows up into an EEOC Charge or Lawsuit. 

Tommy Eden is a partner working out of the Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP offices in Opelika, AL and West Point, GA and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at teden@constangy.com or 334-246-2901. Blog at www.alabamaatwork.com