- Former CEO John Matze sued Parler Monday, accusing it of “theft” of his 40% ownership stake.
- The lawsuit claimed that the company wrongly ousted him after he proposed stricter content moderation.
- Board head Rebekah Mercer used the platform to advance her own political interests, the lawsuit said.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Parler has been sued by its former CEO John Matze.
Matze claimed in the lawsuit,, filed Monday in Nevada, that he was wrongly ousted in January after he proposed stricter content-moderation rules for the social-media site, which is popular with the far-right.
The suit also claimed that conservative megadonor Rebekah Mercer, who heads Parler’s board, and other senior staff conspired to take Matze’s 40% stake in the company and used the platform to advance her own political interests.
Mercer, who already owned a 60% stake in the site, “sought to co-opt [Parler] as a symbol or as the ‘tip of the spear’ for her brand of conservatism, and plotted to force Matze out,” the suit said.
The Las Vegas Sun first reported on the news.
Insider contacted Parler for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.
Parler, which became a haven for far-right activity because of its lax stance on moderating content, came under fire during the January Capitol riots, when users cheered on the protestors or called for more violence. After the siege, Parler was booted offline by its previous web host Amazon Web Services, and shunned by other tech giants, including Apple and Google.
AWS said that the site “poses a very real risk to public safety” and refused to remove content that incited violence. Parler denied this.
The new filing claimed Matze proposed new content-moderation policies that would have banned posts that incited violence while still supporting free speech. His ideas were shunned by Parler’s board, who instead wanted to use the site for their own political interests, the suit said.
“Matze’s proposal was met with dead silence, which he took to be a rejection of his proposal,” the suit said.
The lawsuit claimed that Matze was then “abruptly ousted in violation of the law and public policy.”
According to the suit, Jeffrey Wernick, the company’s chief operating officer, contacted Matze on January 28 and “threatened him with financial ruin” and an “avalanche of legal claims” if he did not immediately resign.
This was at the “clear and apparent direction of Mercer,” the suit said.
After Matze refused to resign, he was fired “without reason,” the lawsuit said.
Matze claims Parler stole his 40% stake
The lawsuit also accused the defendants of the “orchestrated theft” of Matze’s 40% stake in Parler.
The lawsuit said Mercer had told Matze that Parler should be valued at “at least” $1 billion, and that she knew Matze’s stake was worth “multi-million dollars.”
But the defendants told Matze after he was ousted that his 40% stake was only worth $3, the suit claimed.
Parler’s operating agreement allowed the forced sale and purchase of Matze’s stake, according to the suit. The suit said that the defendants shared out the 40% stake among themselves after Matze was fired – it didn’t specifically say how much Matze was paid.
“This scheme is epitomized by oppression, fraud and malice, for which Matze is entitled to punitive damages trebling (at a minimum) the millions that he is owed in compensatory damages,” the suit said.
The suit names Parler, Mercer, Wernick, interim CEO Mark Meckler, and right-wing personality Dan Bongino, who is accused of fabricating misconduct claims against Matze, as defendants.
Earlier this month, Parler filed a new lawsuit against Amazon, alleging that the tech giant had breached its contract with Parler when it took the site offline. The site is now back online with web host SkySilk.