Viacom Poised to Win Suit Over Netflix Talent Poaching

A ViacomCBS Inc. unit is poised to win its lawsuit accusing Netflix Inc. of illegally poaching one of its veteran executives.

In a case Viacom filed in 2018 after TV production executive Momita Sengupta defected to the streaming service, a California state court judge tentatively agreed Tuesday to issue an injunction against Netflix -- which has faced a series of complaints for raiding talent at other companies.

A year ago, Netflix lost a similar case brought by Twentieth Century Fox. Just last week, Netflix was sued by Activision Blizzard Inc. for allegedly engaging a yearslong campaign to poach its executives, including by hiring its former chief financial officer.

Viacom alleged that Netflix induced Sengupta to breach her fixed-term contract by leaving her job 19 months early.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jon Takasugi rejected Netflix’s argument that the contract unlawfully restrained Sengupta’s mobility.

While California law generally disallows agreements that bar employees from competing with a former employer, Takasugi said Viacom wasn’t seeking a court order to compel Sengupta to continue working for it. Instead, the judge found that Netflix intentionally interfered with a valid fixed-term contract.

Netflix will have a chance to contest Takasugi’s findings at a hearing set for Thursday.

Read More: Plot Twist for Netflix as Streaming Movie Competition Amped Up

Sengupta, who is now Vice President Production for Netflix’s Original Series, worked for Viacom from 1995 until 2018.

Netflix and Viacom didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The case is Viacom International Inc. v. Netflix Inc., 18STCV00496, California Superior Court (Los Angeles).

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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