United States District Court, D. Connecticut
MOSSACK FONSECA & CO., S.A.; BUFETE MF & CO.; JURGEN MOSSACK; and RAMON FONSECA, Plaintiffs,
NETFLIX, INC., Defendant.
RULING GRANTING TRANSFER OF ACTION TO CENTRAL
DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
Bond Arterton, U.S.D.J.
2016, an anonymous whistleblower obtained millions of
internal documents from the Mossack Fonseca business group
and released them to the press. These documents contained
information regarding Mossack Fonseca's provision of
offshore financial services to clients around the globe, and
they became known as the "Panama Papers." The
Panama Papers data-dump provides the basis for The
Laundromat, a Netflix original film set to debut on the
production company's streaming platform on October 18,
Fonseca and its principals ("Plaintiffs") allege
that The Laundromats depiction of their work in the
offshore financial services industry libels principals
Jiirgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca, invades Mossack and
Fonseca's privacy by portraying them in a false light,
and dilutes and falsely advertises the firm's trademarked
logo in violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125.
threshold issue of Court's authority to hear
Plaintiffs' claims is presented in Netflix's Motion
to Dismiss [Doc. # 9] for lack of personal jurisdiction, on
the grounds that Plaintiffs lack sufficient ties to
Connecticut to avail themselves of this forum. In the
alternative, Netflix requests that the case be transferred to
the District Court for the Central District of California,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1404(a).
Court agrees that it lacks jurisdiction, and so transfers the
case for the reasons that follow.
Jiirgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca are licensed attorneys who
reside in the Republic of Panama. (First Amended Compl. [Doc.
# 22] 5 1.) Plaintiffs "were primarily in the business
of forming and maintaining offshore companies,"
"commonly referred to as 'tax havens.1 (Id.
¶5 6-7.) To that end, Mossack and Fonseca owned and
operated the law firm Bufete MF & Co. and the corporation
Mossack Fonseca & Co., S.A. (Jrf.¶f 2-3.) These
business entities, which are also named as plaintiffs to this
lawsuit, were organized under Panamanian law and
headquartered in Panama City. (Id.)
Netflix, Inc., is a multimedia company that is headquartered
in the State of California and incorporated in the State of
Delaware. (Id. 5 J 4-5.) Netflix is also registered
with the Connecticut Secretary of State as a foreign
corporation authorized to conduct business.
(Id. ¶ 5.) Netflix is the distributor of the
2019 film The Laundromat, which portrays Plaintiffs
as lead characters. (Id. ¶¶ 60-62.)
Netflix also operates a streaming service that has millions
of subscribers worldwide. (Id. ¶ 121.)
2016, an anonymous whistleblower provided 11.5 million
Mossack Fonseca documents - the "Panama Papers" -
to a German journalist. (Id. ¶ 28.) The
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
("ICIJ"), assisted in reviewing these documents and
produced stories "detailing] the connections between
Government officials and offshore holdings, as well as others
involved in illegal activities, utilizing entities alleged
[ly]" created by Plaintiffs. (Id. ¶¶
this initial coverage of the Panama Papers, a member of the
ICIJ team, Jake Bernstein, published a book on the documents
titled Secrecy World. (Id. f¶ 46-47.) In either
2017 or 2018, Bernstein sold the film rights to his book to
Netflix. (Id. J 61.) The Panama Papers film was
produced under the name The Laundromat and
advertised as being "based on some real shit."
(Id. at 1.) The film stars Gary Oldman as Jiirgen
Mossack and Antonio Banderas as Ramon Fonseca, and
"portrays the Plaintiffs as ruthless, uncaring and
unethical lawyers involved in money laundering, tax evasion
and/or other criminal activities that benefit wealthy people
and/or dangerous criminals." (Id. ¶¶
premiered The Laundromat at the Venice Film Festival
on September 1, 2019 and screened it at the Toronto Film
Festival on September 9, 2019. (Ex. 2 to Def.'s
Opposition to Pis.' Motion for Temporary Restraining
Order, Davin Declaration [Doc. # 20-2] ¶ 2.) The film
was released in select theaters in New York and California on
September 27, 2019. (Id.) Netflix intends to add
The Laundromat to its streaming platform for
consumption by its subscribers on October 18, 2019.
(Id. at ¶ 3.)
October 15, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a five-count complaint in
the District Court for the District of Connecticut, alleging
libel among other harms. (See Compl. [Doc. #1] at
1.) That same day, Plaintiffs applied for a temporary
restraining order to prevent Netflix from streaming The
Laundromat without a disclaimer that "Plaintiffs
have never been convicted of money laundering, tax evasion or
any financial crime" and to prohibit Netflix from
including the Mossack Fonseca & Co., S.A. logo in its
movie. (Pis.' Application for Ex Parte Temporary
Restraining Order [Doc. # 2] at 1.)
October 16, 2019, Netflix filed an appearance and motion to
dismiss, contending that it was not subject to the
Court's personal jurisdiction over it in Connecticut.
(Mem. in Support of Mot. to Dismiss [Doc. # 9-1] at 1).
Netflix asked the Court to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint,
or, in the alternative, transfer the case to a proper venue.
(Id. at 1.) The Court then ordered an expedited
briefing schedule in light of The Laundromat's
imminent release [Doc. #17].