LEGAL ACTION ALSO CITES DAVID JANG AS ‘ALTER EGO’ OF IBT MEDIA, WORLD OLIVET ASSEMBLY & OLIVET UNIVERSITY, AS WELL AS NAMING OTHER DEFENDANTS
NEW YORK, July 8, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Newsweek has filed a suit against IBT Media, David Jang, World Olivet Assembly, Olivet University, Etienne Uzac and Younseok “Titus” Choi to recover more than $35 million in damage Newsweek has suffered as a result of IBT’s admitted criminal acts of fraud and money-laundering, its alleged destruction of Newsweek’s business records and its alleged theft of Newsweek’s trade secrets. This suit also seeks to recover damages caused by IBT’s mismanagement of Newsweek prior to its separation from IBT.
The World Olivet Assembly is reportedly founded by David Jang, a Korean American pastor. According to press reports, Jang started the church in 2000, and soon after founded Olivet University as a small Bible college in Riverside County, CA. Among its many investments, the organization founded a publishing arm, IBT Media, and that organization bought Newsweek in 2013 from IAC/Interactive.
One of IBT Media’s principals Etienne Uzac pled guilty in 2020 to charges brought by the Manhattan DA in 2018 of fraud and money-laundering. Also in 2020 in Manhattan, IBT Media itself pled guilty to fraud and Olivet University pled guilty to engaging in conspiracy and falsifying business records.
In 2018 when the charges were brought against Uzac and others by the Manhattan DA, Pragad purchased 50 percent of Newsweek, while the other IBT Media principal Johnathan Davis retained his half of the company and became a silent partner, no longer involved in the management or journalistic operations of Newsweek. The contractual agreement separating Newsweek indemnified the company for losses that were due to IBT Media’s mismanagement.
In addition to claims against IBT Media for exposing Newsweek to tens of millions of dollars of liabilities arising out of IBT’s mismanagement — including embroiling Newsweek in an ongoing lawsuit brought by IBT’s landlord because IBT has failed to pay its rent, Newsweek’s complaint asserts that IBT and its CEO Johnathan Davis intentionally destroyed over 1.8 terabytes of data – the equivalent of approximately 80 million pages of text – maintained on servers paid for by Newsweek. In doing so, Newsweek contends that IBT sought to conceal evidence of wrongdoing by IBT and its affiliates — despite explicit instructions by Newsweek not to destroy any records because of ongoing legal actions. The complaint also seeks recovery for IBT’s deliberate theft of Newsweek’s trade secrets in a vain attempt by IBT to replicate Newsweek’s envied success.
“Newsweek did not take the decision to sue IBT Media lightly. Indeed, it has long been Newsweek’s hope that an amicable resolution to its many complaints could be achieved without resorting to legal action. However, IBT’s decision to file its utterly baseless lawsuit left Newsweek no choice but to file a formal complaint against IBT—which it did in the afternoon of July 6, 2022,” said Robert Weigel of Gibson Dunn and Crutcher, counsel to Newsweek.
“In addition to bringing claims against IBT, Newsweek is also seeking to recover from several individuals and entities affiliated with IBT, including David Jang. David Jang has been named because he is the alter ego of IBT. As detailed in Newsweek’s complaint, Jang has long directed a constellation of interconnected companies that include IBT for his benefit. Indeed, as the complaint shows, Jang has authorized a veritable laundry list of bad acts by IBT, including repeatedly causing IBT funds to be routed to other companies under his control at the expense of Newsweek and its indemnification rights,” added Weigel.
While this case is underway, the Newsweek newsroom is continuing to cover the news about IBT Media, World Olivet Assembly, and Olivet University, maintaining a divide between editorial and management/ownership.
“We have rigorously covered developments related to our owners, and we will continue to do so. This is a standard ethical practice in U.S. newsrooms. To ignore the story would be passive, if not complicit. No one outside the newsroom has any influence on these stories,” said Nancy Cooper, Global Editor-in-Chief, Newsweek. “We are here to serve Newsweek’s mission and our readers, and I believe our ongoing coverage is clearly the product of an independent newsroom, and that it demonstrates our commitment to honest, transparent journalism and the highest professional standards.”
Since 2018, under Pragad’s leadership, Newsweek has returned to profitability and eliminated its debt. In the last six months alone, Newsweek’s journalism from the opinion section to the magazine has driven an increase in readership. At least one in five Americans visits Newsweek.com every month, helping the publication grow its audience almost every month this year. Traffic to its homepage has doubled and key measures of engagement such as pageviews per user and sessions per user have been growing at an extremely healthy 15 percent.
“Newsweek has had a phenomenal turnaround. It went from a few million visitors per month in 2018 to 100 million per month today. Unfortunately, Newsweek suffered considerably before my team and I got it to the place where it is now,” said Dev Pragad, CEO, Newsweek. “Now is the time to seek redress and remedy all the unethical and bad management of the past.”
Newsweek is the modern global digital news organization built around the iconic, over 85-year-old American magazine. Newsweek reaches 100 million people each month with its thought-provoking news, opinion, images, graphics, and video delivered across a dozen print and digital platforms. Headquartered in New York City, Newsweek also publishes international editions in EMEA and Asia.
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