Former WSJ reporter says law firm used Indian hackers to sabotage his career

WASHINGTON, Oct 15 (Reuters) – A former Wall Street Journal reporter is accusing a major U.S. law firm of using mercenary hackers to remove him from his job and destroy his reputation.

In a lawsuit filed late Friday, Jay Solomon, the Journal̵[ads1]7;s former foreign affairs chief, said Philadelphia-based Dechert LLP worked with hackers from India to steal emails between him and one of his key sources, Iranian-American aviation chief Farhad Azima.

Solomon said the messages, which showed Azima floated the idea of ​​the two going into business together, were put into a file and circulated in a successful bid to get him fired.

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The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, said Dechert “falsely disclosed this documentation first to Mr. Solomon’s employer, the Wall Street Journal, at its Washington, DC office, and then to other media outlets in an attempt to slander and discredit him. “It said the campaign ‘effectively led to Mr Solomon being blackballed by the journalist and publishing community.’

Dechert did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Azima — which filed its own lawsuit against Dechert Thursday in New York — did not immediately return a message. read more

Solomon’s case is the latest in a series of legal actions following Reuters’ reporting on hackers-for-hire operating outside India. In June, Reuters reported on the activities of several hack-for-hire shops, including Delhi-area companies BellTroX and CyberRoot, which were involved in a decade-long series of espionage campaigns targeting thousands of people, including more than 1,000 lawyers at 108 different law firms.

At the time, Reuters reported that people who had been hacked while involved in at least seven different lawsuits had each launched separate investigations into the cyber-espionage campaign.

That number has since grown.

Azima, Solomon’s former source, is among those who have gone to court over the alleged hacking. His attorneys, like Solomons, allege that Dechert worked with BellTroX, CyberRoot and a number of private investigators to steal his emails and publish them online.

BellTroX and CyberRoot are not parties to the case and could not immediately be reached. Executives at both firms have previously denied wrongdoing.

Solomon and Azima claim that Dechert carried out the hack-and-leak operation in the interests of their client, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al-Qasimi, ruler of the Middle Eastern emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. Reuters has reported that lawyers for Ras Al Khaimah’s investment agency – RAKIA – used the emails to win a fraud case brought against Azima in London in 2016.

Azima, who denies RAKIA’s fraud allegations, is trying to have the verdict thrown out.

In addition to being deployed in court, the leaked emails also reached The Associated Press, which published two articles about Azima in June 2017, including one that revealed the airline mogul had offered reporter Solomon a minority stake in a company he was. setting up. The Journal fired Solomon shortly before the AP’s story was published, citing ethics violations.

Solomon says he never took Azima up on his proposal or benefited financially from their relationship. In a first-person account of the scandal published in the Columbia Journalism Review in 2018, the ex-journalist said he never pushed back on Azima’s talk of business opportunities because he was trying to humor a man who had been crucial to his reporting on the Middle East. Solomon acknowledged “serious errors in the handling of my source relationship with Azima” but said he had been the target of an “incredibly effective” intelligence operation.

The Journal, which is not a party to the suit, declined comment. The AP did not immediately return a message.

Solomon won several awards for his work as a foreign correspondent before he was fired. He declined to make a journal comment about the lawsuit, but in his 2018 account he called the episode a warning to journalists.

“Leaks and hacking of emails and correspondences can blow up intricate reporting and derail months, if not years, of work,” he said.

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Reporting by Raphael Satter; Editing by David Gregorio

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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