Away luggage hires defamation law firm in response to article that alleges toxic work environment

By Steven Melendez

After a report in The Verge described an allegedly “toxic work environment” at trendy luggage startup Away, the company has hired a law firm known for high-profile battles against major media outlets.

“We hired lawyers from Clare Locke LLP, the country’s top defamation law firm, and they have identified deliberate lies and distortions in The Verge’s reporting,” said cofounder Steph Korey in a Slack message to employees that a company representative shared with Fast Company. “We will be making a decision about our legal options after The Verge responds fully to our demands for retractions and corrections.”

A spokesperson for Vox Media, The Verge‘s parent company, disputed Korey’s description of the story in a statement shared with Fast Company.

The Verge disputes Away CEO Steph Korey’s characterization of our reporting,” the spokesperson wrote. “It’s disappointing that Away has decided to attack The Verge instead of making this moment about Steph Korey’s growth as a leader.”

Clare Locke, named for its husband-and-wife partners Libby Locke and Tom Clare, has become well known in recent years for its work representing high-profile people and companies in defamation matters. The firm represented Nicole P. Eramo, a University of Virginia dean who won a $3 million defamation judgment over her depiction in the discredited Rolling Stone article “A Rape on Campus,” later retracted by the magazine.

The Verge‘s false reporting is some of the worst journalism I’ve seen since Rolling Stone’s article on a fabricated gang rape at UVA,” Locke said in a statement. “The Verge published hit pieces filled with lies and distortions designed to damage Away’s reputation.”

Locke also represents Sarah Palin in an appeal involving a defamation case against The New York Times and is “actively litigating matters against CNN, Bloomberg, Katie Couric, and Anderson Cooper,” according to the firm’s website.

“Outside the courtroom, some of Libby’s biggest defamation ‘wins’ are stories the public will never hear about; she has killed flawed articles, storylines, and broadcast segments in outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair and The Dr. Oz Show,” according to the website.

The firm also reportedly sent a letter on behalf of the conservative news site Breitbart to the founder of Sleeping Giants, a campaign that lobbied advertisers to keep their ads off of the site, The Daily Beast reported in 2018. Last year, writer and activist Cory Doctorow reported that he had amended an article on the site BoingBoing after receiving a letter from the firm “on behalf of the Sacklers,” the family linked to the drug company Purdue Pharma that has faced litigation over its opioid drug OxyContin.

Clare Locke didn’t immediately respond to questions about the firm’s current and former clients.

Away’s Korey had initially announced plans to transition into a new role as executive chairman but said Monday she will stay on as co-CEO alongside Stuart Haselden, the Lululemon Athletica COO who the company initially announced last month would become the sole CEO as of January 13.

This story has been updated with a comment from The Verge.


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