At issue is whether News America has lied, cheated and stolen to maintain its market share. FGI claims News America “engaged in illegal computer espionage by breaking into FGI’s password-protected computer system and obtaining propietary FGI information.” News America denies the allegations.
The saga began when, according to FGI’s complaint, News America made FGI an offer it couldn’t refuse:
At a meeting in July 1999, News’ Chief Executive Officer told FGI that News was interested in buying FGI, but if FGI refused to sell and chose instead to compete with News for in-store programs other than floor advertising — such as instant coupon machines, shelf ads, take ones or shopping cart placards — News would destroy FGI.
FGI chose to compete — and News America allegedly made good on its promise to kill FGI. The complaint:
“…on at least eleven separate occasions between October 2003 and January 2004, News intentionally, knowingly and without authorization breached FGI’s secure computer system and repeatedly accessed, viewed, took and obtained FGI’s most sensitive and private information concerning its past and upcoming advertising and marketing programs.”
FGI discovered this when one of its clients asked FGI how News America knew about a program that the client was only running with FGI. News America had blown its cover by asking the client why the program wasn’t also running with News America.
A breach of FGI’s computer system was later traced to “an IP address registered at the time to News,” the complaint states.
Following the computer break-in, FGI lost contracts from Safeway, Winn-Dixie, Piggly Wiggly and Basha’s.
Usually these sorts of business litigations are dryasdust, however, News Corp. isn’t most companies.