Court strikes Zillow whistleblower letter, deals blow to Move

A Washington state court has dealt a blow to realtor.com operator Move Inc. in a trade secrets lawsuit against portal giant Zillow.

The state’s superior court granted a motion filed by Zillow last month to disregard a letter from a former Zillow employee alleging that Zillow steals listing data from agent websites and scrapes data from realtor.com for its own listing-quality purposes.

In a May 4 filing made public today, Judge John Chun granted the motion to strike the letter and an accompanying filing from consideration in third-party discovery requests filed by Move seeking more information about the Zillow-Trulia merger. That same day, Judge Chun denied those requests without explanation. (Read the documents in question at the end of the story.)

In an emailed statement, Zillow Group said, “We are very pleased with the court’s decision.”

Move declined to comment for this story. It is not clear whether Move will re-introduce the letter in a separate filing.

In March, Move accused former Move employee and current Zillow exec Errol Samuelson of tipping Zillow off to a merger being considered between Trulia and Move. Move alleged that information allowed Zillow to acquire Trulia first and therefore obtain an unfair competitive advantage.

In a legal filing, Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff denied that Samuelson tipped him off to any plans Move had with respect to Trulia.

The judge’s rulings this week mean that subpoenas issued to Trulia, JP Morgan Securities and Goldman Sachs regarding the Zillow-Trulia merger will be more limited in scope than Move desired. (JP Morgan Securities served as financial adviser to Trulia during the merger talks; Goldman Sachs advised Zillow.)

Trulia must produce:

  • documents sufficient to describe the 2013 and 2014 compensation package for Alon Chaver, Trulia’s vice president of industry services;
  • documents sufficient to describe the 2013 and 2014 compensation package for Trulia’s head of business-to-business product lines, if that is someone other than Mr. Chaver;
  • communications between Trulia and Errol Samuelson regarding Trulia’s acquisition by
    Zillow;
  • communications between Trulia and former Move exec and current Zillow employee Curt Beardsley regarding Trulia’s acquisition by Zillow;
  • communications between Trulia and Errol Samuelson regarding Move, realtor.com, or
    Move-owned listing syndicator ListHub on March 5, 2014 or after;
  • communications between Trulia and Curt Beardsley regarding Move, realtor.com, or
    ListHub on March 17, 2014 or after; and,
  • “documents, including communications between Zillow and Trulia, sufficient to show the date on which Zillow and Trulia began discussing their pending merger and all documents relating in any way to the premise that Zillow should acquire Trulia as a defensive measure against a potential transaction involving Move and Trulia.”

Goldman Sachs will be limited to producing:

  • documents that show when and how the company first learned of Zillow’s interest in potentially acquiring Trulia in 2014;
  • documents that show when Goldman Sachs was first retained by Zillow in connection with the Trulia acquisition;
  • documents related in any way to the premise that Zillow should acquire Trulia as a defensive measure against a potential transaction involving Move and Trulia;
  • documents generated or received in connection with the Trulia acquisition that mention or refer to Move Inc. and/or realtor.com, and involve any communications with or reference to Errol Samuelson; and,
  • any analysis or evidence of any specific plan of Move or realtor.com regarding an acquisition involving Trulia.

JP Morgan will be limited to producing:

  • documents sufficient to show when and how the company first learned of Zillow’s interest in potentially acquiring Trulia in 2014;
  • documents sufficient to show when the company was first retained by Trulia in connection with the Trulia acquisition;
  • all documents generated or received in connection with the Trulia acquisition that mention or refer to Move, Inc. and/or realtor.com, and involve any communications with or reference to Errol Samuelson; and,
  • any analysis or evidence of any specific plan of Move or realtor.com to acquire Trulia.

Order granting motion to strike whistleblower letter in Move Inc./Zillow lawsuit

Motion to revise subpoenas

Move Inc.’s Notice of Supplemental Support

Denial of third-party discovery requests in Move Inc./Zillow lawsuit

Revisions to Trulia subpoena

Revisions to Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan subpoenas

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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