Regan vs. HarperCollins et al: Of Course, You Realize This Means War

By Neal Comment

judith-regan-headshot.jpgHere’s what the $100 million lawsuit Judith Regan has filed against HarperCollins, NewsCorp, and Jane Friedman boils down to:

  • one cause of action for civil conspiracty to commit defamation
  • fourteen causes of action for separate acts of defamation per se
  • one cause of action for defamation per se, “compelled self-published defamation,” i.e., every time Regan has to tell somebody about why she was fired, she’s forced to defame herself by telling the whole sad story; a lawyer I spoke to about the complaint described this cause of action as “very creative” and “a new one on me”
  • one cause of action for breach of contract
  • one cause of action for breach of implied covenant of good faith & fair dealing
  • one cause of action for tortious interference with contract
  • one cause of action for sex discrimination under New York State law
  • one cause of action for sex discrimination under New York City law
  • one cause of action for retaliation under New York State law
  • one cause of action for retaliation under New York City law
  • one cause of action for conversion; i.e., she wants the stuff the HarperCollins lawyers seized from her office back

Unsurprisingly, Leon Neyfakh was on the story early, and then Jeff Bercovici called Bert Fields for additional confirmation. Then Bercovici took the awesome step of putting Regan’s entire complaint online.

In a NYT story about the suit, Russ Buettner leads with Regan’s opening salvo from the complaint, where she alleges that last year’s firing was all about News Corp.‘s effort to build up Rudy Giuliiani as the Republican party’s candidate in next year’s presidential elections.

Once you get through the obligatory introductory material about what a great publisher Regan was and how wrong HarperCollins was to fire her, the factual background portion of the complaint has more good bits…

⇒The News Corp. executive who knew about Regan’s affair with Bernie Kerik was the one who gave the media the idea that Regan was responsible for sending NYPD personnel to Fox News after her cell phone went missing there, because if people knew it was Kerik’s idea, it would undermine his rising political prestige.

⇒Just a reminder, to make of what you will: The ink was barely dry on Michael Wolff‘s Vanity Fair piece on Regan when he was named as the authorized biographer of Rupert Murdoch.

⇒Another reminder: Murdoch and Friedman both loved the idea of If I Did It, or at least the money it would bring when published.

⇒”In addition, after the sales department announced confidentially to its top accounts that the OJ book was coming, the bookselling community embraced it with fervor and huge orders. In fact, Friedman called Regan into a sales and marketing meeting to discuss ‘increasing’ the print run because of the unprecedented number of orders that the sales force was receiving.” At which point, it was Regan who urged caution, especially given that Harper was planning to publish the book on the eve of the holiday shopping season.

⇒At the first sign of public disapproval towards If I Did It, Regan says, HarperCollins swung into action with a “smear campaign” to portray her as “a disgraceful and unethical publisher,” with the participation of several employees as well as outside publicity firms. Roger Ailes is discussed as the possible architect of this alleged campaign, with supporting “evidence” from comments Bill O’Reilly made about Ailes during the sexual harassment suit filed against O’Reilly.

⇒That rambling “personal statement” Regan made about why she published the book? Fox and Harper made her do it, and she walked right into that trap, because the minute she said it, it set her up in the public eye as a maverick.

Publishers Weekly editor-in-chief Sara Nelson is implicitly accused of colluding with Jane Friedman in besmirching Regan’s reputation by having “her friend” named by the magazine as publisher of the year, which was seen by many last year as a major factor in Friedman’s ability to distance herself from If I Did It. Then, Regan continues, Friedman also got Nelson to run the PW story about a Mickey Mantle novel ReganBooks had acquired, spoonfeeding the magazine as much anti-Regan spin as she could cram into the story.

After that, it’s the expected stuff about how Regan never said anything about a “Jewish cabal,” Harper knew the infamous mezzuzah story was false when they leaked it to the press, and so on and so forth—until she gets around to accusing News Corp. of a double standard towards women employees. Among the most potent allegations relevant to us in publishing there: “Under Jane Friedman’s direction, there is also a pattern within HarperCollins of firing high-level women in order to surround herself with men.”