The Repercussions of a Leak: A Document Review Attorney Brings Down Les Moonves
By Alice K. Jump and Ariana Zhao
The source of the leak that formed the basis for a series of The New York Times articles involving accusations of sexual misconduct against former CBS President Leslie Roy Moonves (a/k/a Les Moonves) was recently identified as former Covington & Burling LLP document review attorney Ali Diercks. In an interview with the Times reporter who broke the story, printed here, Ms. Diercks discussed her motivations to disclose information gleaned from internal CBS emails examined in connection with the investigation of the sexual harassment allegations, and the repercussions of her decision.
The story presents a cautionary tale for lawyers and clients involved in all manners of investigations and litigation, including those related to sexual harassment. It shows that staff who review documents, often temporary employees, may not hold the view that confidentiality and attorney-client privileges are absolute. It also shows that the repercussions of a leak can be far-reaching and devastating, in this case affecting not only Mr. Moonves, who was forced to leave CBS, but Covington & Burling and Ms. Diercks herself. The law firm was sued by Mr. Moonves for breach of confidentiality and had to pay an undisclosed, but presumably substantial, settlement. Ms. Diercks was suspended from the practice of law and is now working as a court reporter.
As the dust settles, it’s crucial for attorneys and clients alike to reflect on the lessons learned from this unfortunate series of events. Strengthening protocols for document review, ensuring confidential information is handled with care, and reinforcing the sanctity of attorney-client privileges are all steps that can prevent leaks and their disastrous aftermath. This story serves as a stark reminder that trust can be fragile, and once broken, the consequences can be irreparable.
This article is intended as a general discussion of these issues only and is not to be considered legal advice or relied upon. For more information, please contact RPJ Partner Alice K. Jump who counsels clients on litigation, alternative dispute resolution and business counseling, with particular emphasis on representing clients in the financial services and real estate industries as well as educational and non-profit institutions. Ms. Jump is admitted to practice law in New York and before the United States District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.