AMI crosses the extortion line

Posted on Feb 8, 2019 in Business Litigation

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, posted a blog post on Medium claiming that the publishers of the National Enquirer, AMI, extorted him when it threatened to release compromising pictures of him unless he shut down his investigation of leaks to AMI.

Do those acts of AMI constitute extortion? Extortion is where: (i) one obtains “property” from someone else (or attempts to do so); and (ii) such attempt is by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence or fear. On the first prong, AMI clearly attempted to obtain something from Bezos as it desired to have him end his investigation into AMI’s leaks, which he was in the process of doing. While AMI will argue it did not attempt to obtain “property,” because the definition is broad, by threatening to have Bezos shut down his investigation, AMI arguably attempted to obtain “property” of Bezos.

Was that threat wrongful? While AMI would argue that it was engaged in ongoing negotiations with Bezos over releasing potential legal claims against one another, AMI’s conduct was wrongful as it threatened to disclose lurid pics of him, causing him fear.

Bezos, by posting the story on Medium, beat AMI to the punch. He has also caused the government to, once again, look into AMI’s practices — which crossed the line!

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