Dechert law firm asks judge to toss reporter’s hack-and-leak lawsuit

(Reuters) – Law firm Dechert asked a US judge to throw out a former Wall Street Journal reporter’s lawsuit accusing the firm of working with mercenary hackers to leak private emails and get him fired from his job.

Dechert argued in a Washington, DC, federal court filing late Friday that the lawsuit was untimely because it relates to events that occurred more than five years ago. The complaint by reporter Jay Solomon also does not show that Dechert was responsible for the harm he faced, the firm said.

Solomon, who recently became an editor at the news startup Semafor, sued Dechert and the firm’s former partners Neil Gerrard and David Graham Hughes in October, alleging they worked with hackers in India and US investigative and public relations firms to steal and leak emails between him and one of his sources, Iranian American aviation executive Farhad Azima.

Gerrard could not be reached for comment. A lawyer for Hughes said in a filing Friday that Hughes played no role in hacking or leaking the messages or in Solomon’s firing.

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Dechert has previously denied the claims in the lawsuit.

Solomon was fired in 2017 shortly before The Associated Press reported on emails in which Azima floated business opportunities and sought Solomon’s help in promoting his projects. Solomon has said he never went into business with Azima and did not profit from the relationship.

In seeking dismissal of the case, Dechert, represented by the New York law firm Kaplan Hecker & Fink, sought to cast the blame on Solomon, noting that he had previously acknowledged mistakes in managing his source relationship with Azima.

“If only his unethical conduct had remained secret, his theory goes, Plaintiff could have escaped the consequences of his wrongdoing,” the firm said.

A lawyer for Solomon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Solomon claimed the alleged hack and leak of his private emails was part of a broader campaign by Dechert to discredit adversaries of its client Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al-Qasimi, ruler of the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates.

The complaint said Dechert and other defendants sought to conceal their role in the scheme, giving Solomon additional time to file a lawsuit.

Reuters has reported on the activities of Indian mercenary hackers who targeted Azima, who has filed his own lawsuit against Dechert in New York. Those emails were used against him in a case in the United Kingdom involving Ras Al Khaimah’s investment fund.

The case is Solomon v. Dechert, US District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 1:22-cv-03137.

For Solomon: Richard Heideman of Heideman Nudelman & Kalik

For Dechert: Sean Hecker of Kaplan Hecker & Fink

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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