John Matze, the co-founder and former CEO of free speech platform Parler, is suing the company for wrongful termination and the alleged theft of his 40% ownership of the company. Matze was ousted shortly after Parler's trouble following the Jan 6 riot at the US Capitol.
In the lawsuit filed at the Clark County District Court, in Nevada, Matze is seeking “millions in compensatory damages.”
The suit alleges that Parler's main funder, Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of conservative billionaire Robert Mercer, and other board members, engaged in a scheme to steal his ownership in the company he founded.
We obtained a copy of the lawsuit complaint for you here.
“While Mercer readily acknowledged and broadly boasted… that Parler was an enterprise worth hundreds of millions of dollars, if not a billion dollars, she and others orchestrated a theft of Matze's 40 percent ownership, claiming that it could be taken from him for a mere $3.00,” the suit claims.
“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 adds.
“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.”
Parler was launched in 2018 describing itself as “a non-biased, free speech social media focused on protecting users' rights.” Amid the increased censorship of conservative voices on mainstream social media sites last year, the site became more popular. Before it was forced offline in January, the site reported that it had more than 12 million users.
According to the suit, Matze met Mercer in 2017, and she agreed to fund Parler. The two agreed on a deal where Mercer would own 60% and Matze would retain 40% ownership.
Everything was going well until January after the riot at the US Capitol. Parler was accused of enabling the riot and, as a result, it was booted from Google and Apple's app stores. Then it was forced offline after Amazon withdrew its web hosting services.
When the site was offline, Matze was fired. In the suit, he argues that his termination was unlawful and alleges he was fired because of differences in opinion with Mercer.
The suit says that he “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 US 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,” the lawsuit alleges.
Matze says he was told to resign and sign a release of claims and threatened to be “buried under an avalanche of legal claims and expenses if he dared defied Mercer.” When he refused to resign he was fired.
The lawsuit claims that Parler's leadership publicly defamed Matze, claiming that he violated his deal, resulting in “the forced sale and purchase” of his 40% ownership for only $3.00, despite the company being valued at hundreds of millions.
“Mercer, through Meckler and Richardson, claimed they had determined the ‘fair market value' of Matze's 40 percent interest to be a mere $3.00.”
Parler is yet to comment on this story.