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Sony Pictures reaches settlement in hacking lawsuit

Sony Pictures reaches settlement in hacking lawsuit
Sony Pictures Entertainment studio lot entrance in Culver City. (Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

Sony Pictures Entertainment has reached an agreement to resolve a class-action lawsuit from former employees whose personal data was exposed in last year's devastating cyberattack.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, and are subject to approval by U.S. District Court Judge Gary Klausner in Los Angeles.

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"Plaintiffs and SPE reached an agreement in principle to settle all of the claims of the putative class against SPE," the plaintiffs' lawyers wrote in a court document filed Wednesday.

A representative for Culver City-based Sony Pictures declined to comment, and attorneys for the plaintiffs did not respond to requests for comment. The former employees have until Oct. 19 to file a motion for preliminary approval of the proposed settlement, according to the filing.

Multiple plaintiffs filed complaints alleging that the company did not do enough to protect them from the data breach that shut down the studio Nov. 24. The lawsuits were later consolidated into a single case listing nine named former Sony workers.

The original suit filed in mid-December said Sony failed to secure its computer systems, servers and databases, and subsequently did not protect confidential employee information such as Social Security numbers and health insurance records.

The plaintiffs have been seeking class-action status. Sony filed an opposing motion in August, arguing that the claims didn't merit class-action certification.

Sony had previously tried to have the suit dismissed, but the court rejected that request in June and allowed the case to proceed.

"Once the judge decided that the plaintiffs here had standing to bring the case, that may well have incentivized Sony to think about settling," said Scott Vernick, partner and head of the data security and privacy practice at Fox Rothschild.

Vernick, who is not involved in the case, said it was "a little surprising" that the parties settled this early, given the scope of the claims.

U.S. authorities blamed North Korea for the attack that unleashed private information of tens of thousands of current and former Sony employees onto the Internet. The hack forced Sony to drastically change release plans for its comedy "The Interview," about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The breach also revealed embarrassing emails between executives and other major Hollywood figures, including a racially insensitive exchange between producer Scott Rudin and Sony Pictures co-Chair Amy Pascal. The fallout from the attack ultimately culminated in Pascal's exit.

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder

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