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Netflix Gets Panama Papers Firm’s Suit Moved as Film Releases

Oct. 18, 2019, 1:59 PM

Panama Papers law firm Mossack Fonseca & Co.'s libel case against Netflix over the film “The Laundromat,” which releases today, was transferred to California federal court after the District of Connecticut ruled it didn’t have jurisdiction over the parties.

Netflix is based in California and the film was produced there, making the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California the appropriate court to hear the case.

Mossack Fonseca sued Netflix for libel, trademark infringement, and false light privacy violations Oct. 15, arguing “The Laundromat” “defames and portrays the Plaintiffs as ruthless uncaring lawyers who are involved in money laundering, tax evasion, bribery and/or other criminal conduct.” The film stars Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas as firm founders Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca.

The firm requested a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order to stop the movie’s release on Netflix’s streaming platform, but the film was released Oct. 18.

Connecticut only allows a state resident or “person having a usual place of business” there to sue a non-Connecticut corporation in Connecticut court. Because Mossack Fonseca is based in Panama and all of the named plaintiffs are Panama residents, they couldn’t sue Netflix in Connecticut. Netflix’s Connecticut foreign corporation registration also didn’t establish jurisdiction over the company, the court said.

The court accepted Netflix’s request to transfer the case to California. “Defendant is clearly subject to California’s jurisdiction as Netflix produced the film in the State, is headquartered in the State, and has ‘obviously consented’ to being sued by Plaintiffs there,” the court said.

Judge Janet Bond Arterton wrote the order.

Pryor Cashman LLP represents Netflix. The Law Offices of Stephen J. Carriero represent Mossack Fonseca.

The case is Mossack Fonseca & Co. v. Netflix Inc., D. Conn., No. 3:19-cv-01618, 10/17/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Blake Brittain in Washington at bbrittain@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com