Faced with a request for extortion, a company must prove its damages
On appeal, the publisher Enablon was left with most of his civil compensation obtained in the first instance against a blackmailer.
Acquired by Wolters Kluwer in 2016, Enablon is a software publisher for risk management and regulatory compliance. Between mid-2015 and the end of 2018, a former technical director of the publisher, in post from 2005 to 2015 and who left following a contractual termination, unduly remained in the publisher’s information system in order to carry out data extractions followed by disclosure blackmail. An email written in English, accompanied by samples of the stolen data, demanded a payment of one million euros in bitcoins to avoid disclosure. This case was the occasion of a case law on the damages of a legal person, concepts that the Court of Appeal of Versailles wanted to clarify by insisting on the evidence to be brought.
Quite easily spotted during the investigation, the very reckless former technical director had admitted his guilt. He was convicted on a criminal court appearance on prior admission of guilt. Then came the hearing on civil interests, in other words compensation for the only victim, publisher Enablon. At first instance, the victim had obtained 325,930.59 euros in compensation for various damages. But, on appeal, the main thing was rejected for lack of sufficient evidence and the compensation reduced to only attorneys’ fees, ie 2,000 euros. The victim appealed to the Supreme Court.
The damage to image was thus denied by the Court. Indeed, the blackmail email had not been distributed at the blackmailer’s initiative. As a result, no impact or risk on the image or the turnover could validly be held against the accused. A large invoice from a crisis management communications consultancy firm was also dismissed because it was addressed to the parent company Wolters Kluwer and not to the Enablon subsidiary. The connection with the case therefore seemed insufficient to the Court.