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James O’Keefe is no stranger to making news headlines. In recent months, his very public split with Project Veritas and subsequent formation of O’Keefe Media Group (OMG) has made waves in the world of conservative journalism. But now, Project Veritas is taking legal action against O’Keefe and OMG, as well as two other former Project Veritas employees.
On Wednesday, Project Veritas and Project Veritas Action Fund (PV) filed a Complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against O’Keefe, Transparency 1, LLC (doing business as O’Keefe Media Group), RC Maxwell, and Anthony Iatropolous. The 12-Count Complaint alleges, among other things, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.
Today Project Veritas filed a complaint against James O’Keefe in federal court. It contains 12 causes of action including Breach of Fiduciary Duty. You can find all 37 pages in this thread. pic.twitter.com/5kXwChF3ut
— Abby Libby (@abbythelibb_) May 31, 2023
Before I provide a more detailed breakdown of the Complaint, a full copy of which can be viewed below, a caveat: A Complaint is just that. It’s the initiating document in a lawsuit and it’s the Plaintiff’s opportunity to lay out the causes of action they’ve decided to pursue and the facts they believe will support them, but it’s not evidence and not the final say on how things will shake out. It’s purely the opening salvo. That said, following is an overview of what the suit alleges.
The Complaint begins by laying out the basic factual underpinnings, with the framing apparent from the outset:
Being known as the founder of an organization does not entitle that person to run amok and put his own interests ahead of that organization. Defendant James O’Keefe (“O’Keefe”) failed in his duties to Plaintiff, Project Veritas, causing it serious and significant damage. O’Keefe must be held accountable, as must the organization O’Keefe created, Defendant Transparency 1, LLC d/b/a O’Keefe Media Group (“OMG”) for suborning his violations.
Per the Complaint, PV relies, of course, on donations from private donors to fund their investigative reporting activities. PV maintains that its donor database is confidential. PV was founded by O’Keefe in 2010 and he remained its CEO through the time of his separation. While he was suspended from the Board of Directors of both PV entities on February 6, 2023, his employment was not formally terminated until May 15, 2023. O’Keefe had a signed Employment Agreement in effect with PV (as did Maxwell and Iatropolous). Pursuant to that agreement, any content created by O’Keefe in connection with his employment by PV belonged to PV. Additionally, certain information was to remain confidential, O’Keefe was not to engage in outside work that would give rise to a conflict of interest with PV, all PV property was to be returned to PV upon separation of employment, and he was not to solicit donors or employees of PV for a period of one year following the termination of his employment.
The Complaint also lays out numerous allegations of misconduct on the part of O’Keefe, asserting that this is what initially led to his being suspended. Specifically, it alleges that O’Keefe screamed at and belittled coworkers, had strained relationships with several donors, was routinely late to meetings, was rude to donors at VIP events, and engaged in financial misconduct, such as having PV employees attend to personal errands and chores for him, like picking up his laundry and cleaning his boat, as well as inappropriate use of the PV credit card for such items as:
a. Directing the organization to pay more than $10,000 for a helicopter flight from New York to Maine without a clear benefit to Project Veritas;
b. Directing the organization to pay for first-class air travel for O’Keefe even where the flight did not satisfy the organization’s policy for approving firstclass flights;
c. Using his Project Veritas credit card for expensive hotel rooms and suites at luxury hotels without clear business purpose, when other employees on the same trips were required to stay in budget accommodations;
d. Directing the organization to pay for expenses associated with large organizational awareness events like the Project Veritas Experience, without engaging in any analysis to help the organization understand the
potential return on investment or capitalize on the connections made through these events; and
e. Causing the organization to pay for his regular use of private car services (“black cars”), even to go relatively short distances in and around Manhattan and then wait outside of restaurants for hours, at a total expense of more than $150,000 over the past 18 months.
Further, the Complaint alleges that, though he was placed on paid leave on February 6, 2023, O’Keefe’s employment was not terminated, yet he formed OMG on February 17, 2023. In mid-March, O’Keefe made several public media appearances, including The Charlie Kirk Show, Steve Bannon’s War Room, Under the Skin with Russell Brand, The Mark Levin Show, Human Events, The Ben Shapiro Show, and The Megyn Kelly Show, in which he falsely asserted he’d been ousted from PV and, in some instances, implied it was in relation to his reporting on the Pfizer story.
The Complaint then sets out 12 Counts or causes of action:
- Breach of Contract (as to O’Keefe) — regarding the provisions of the Employment Agreement
- Violation of Defend Trade Secrets Act (as to O’Keefe) — regarding his alleged use of donor lists, employee lists, and unaired programming
- Breach of Fiduciary Duty (as to O’Keefe) — regarding his formation of OMG while still a member of the Board of Directors
- Breach of Duty of Loyalty (as to O’Keefe) — similar to Count 3
- Conversion (as to O’Keefe) — regarding his alleged taking of donor lists, contact information, equipment, and unreleased investigation publications
- Replevin (as to O’Keefe) — similar to Count 5
- Indemnification (as to O’Keefe) — asserting his obligation to indemnify PV as to investigations or actions taken against them on account of O’Keefe’s errors or omissions
- Tortious Interference With Contract (as to OMG) — asserting that its formation and use of O’Keefe’s services and PV material, while he was on paid time off from PV, interfered with O’Keefe’s Employment Agreement with PV
- Breach of Contract (as to Iatropolous) — regarding his alleged failure to return PV equipment, namely a MacBook Air
- Breach of Contract (as to Maxwell) — regarding his alleged failure to return PV equipment, namely a MacBook Pro
- Tortious Interference With Contract (as to OMG) — regarding Iatropolous’ alleged use of PV equipment for the benefit of OMG
- Tortious Interference With Contract (as to OMG) — regarding Maxwell’s alleged use of PV equipment for the benefit of OMG
Ultimately, the suit asks for the Court to issue preliminary and permanent injunctions as to O’Keefe and OMG preventing them from soliciting PV’s donors, employees, or contractors, disparaging PV, obtaining, using, or disclosing PV’s confidential information, and keeping/failing to return PV’s property, to issue preliminary and permanent injunctions as to Iatropolous and Maxwell preventing them from keeping/failing to return PV’s property, to compel O’Keefe to account for his conduct, to award PV money damages (compensatory, punitive, and exemplary), to disgorge all funds by which O’Keefe and OMG were unjustly enriched and O’Keefe’s salary during his period of disloyalty, and to award PV reasonable attorneys’ fees.
The suit was filed by the Randazza Legal Group, PLLC. If that name rings a bell, Marc Randazza has previously represented Alex Jones, Mike Cernovich, and Chuck Johnson, as well as, for a time, The Satanic Temple in its suit against Twitter for religious discrimination.
As noted above, this is merely the opening salvo on the litigation front. We can expect a response from O’Keefe and OMG, and possibly a countersuit with their own allegations as to PV.