May 30, 2024
'Jane Doe' claimed CEO coerced her into 'slave contract' and years of sexual abuse and torture followed.

A former Bay Area CEO accused in a lawsuit of enslaving his assistant and sending her into “a dark abyss of unwanted sexual horror” is now alleging the woman’s high-profile Hollywood lawyer threatened to take the woman’s story to celebrity-gossip website TMZ if he did not pay her $10 million — on top of money he had already paid under a legal settlement.

Whether Christian Lanng, ex-CEO of the software company Tradeshift he co-founded in 2010, paid anything to the former assistant identified in court filings as “Jane Doe” is under dispute and central to the ongoing court battle.

In December, the woman sued Lanng claiming that within months of her being hired as his executive assistant at the San Francisco-headquartered firm, he coerced her into signing a “slave contract.” She alleged that years of rape, sexual abuse, torture and assault followed.

Tradeshift – which attained “unicorn” status in 2018 with a $1.1 billion valuation — announced weeks before Doe filed her lawsuit that it had fired Lanng for “gross misconduct on multiple grounds” after management learned of “serious allegations of sexual assault and harassment” against him.

This week, Lanng sued Doe back, along with Bryan Freedman, her prominent entertainment-industry lawyer whom he accused of extortion. Lanng’s countersuit also revealed a detail absent from Doe’s lawsuit against him: Before she sued, Lanng had agreed to pay her $10 million in a 2022 settlement to resolve her claims.

In an email Friday, Lanng said that he and Doe had a consensual relationship and that her lawsuit against him was “baseless.”  Claims made by Doe and her lawyers “are categorically false and directly contradicted by extensive, detailed evidence,” Lanng wrote.

Lanng alleged in an earlier statement to this news organization that the purportedly warped version of the relationship described in Doe’s lawsuit was being used to defame him “for personal financial gain.”

In his countersuit, filed Tuesday in San Jose U.S. District Court, Lanng claimed the “slave contract” filed as Exhibit A in Doe’s lawsuit against him “was merely a sexual prop downloaded from the Internet and drafted mostly by Jane Doe and never used in reality.”

Freedman countered, in a statement to this news organization, “Why would Lanng agree to a $10 million settlement if the slave contract were a prop?”

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In a court filing, Lanng claimed that Freedman — who has represented Quentin Tarantino, Julia Roberts, Seth Rogen and Tucker Carlson — texted him after the settlement was reached and threatened to “leak the story to TMZ” if Lanng did not give Doe $10 million beyond what he had already paid her under the deal.

Freedman, the countersuit alleged, followed up by threatening Lanng’s “ability to do business” and suggested he faced “permanent destruction” if he did not pay $10 million immediately.

Lanng said Friday he believed Doe’s lawyers saw the case as a “quick payday.”

He claimed in his countersuit that he had been paying installments to comply with the settlement, but after one late payment to Doe, she “demanded that she be paid more than the $10 million” she had agreed to. A spokesperson for Lanng on Friday said he had paid Doe $675,000 under the settlement.

“Now that she had millions of dollars to hire counsel of her choosing to push for even more money than bargained for,” Doe hired Freedman’s firm “to advance her scheme,” Lanng’s countersuit alleged.

Freedman told this news organization this week he had not yet started representing Doe when he contacted Lanng. The lawyer did not answer questions about the alleged threat to leak information to TMZ, but claimed Lanng “did not pay a dime in settlement proceeds under the agreement that he signed.”