Netflix faces a lawsuit by the Panama Papers law firm over The Laundromat. Releasing on the streaming giant today, Steven Soderbergh’s film The Laundromat totes a cast of Hollywood’s finest, including Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, Jeffrey Wright, and Sharon Stone.
Based on Jake Bernstein’s book Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite, The Laundromat chronicles the unbelievable true events of the Panama Papers scandal. Regarded as one of the most elaborate financial crimes in history, the Panama Papers are documents containing personal financial information on wealthy individuals and public officials. Overseen by Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca & Co, the titular Panama Papers revealed offshore accounts, money laundering and tax evasion from world leaders, filmmakers, and celebrities. The two partners behind the controversial Mossack Fonseca, Jürgen Mossack (Oldman) and Ramón Fonseca (Banderas), have taken serious issue with their portrayal in Soderbergh's movie.
As reported to Deadline, Fonseca and Mossack filed a libel and trademark infringement lawsuit against Netflix. Claiming The Laundromat “...defames and portrays the Plaintiffs as ruthless uncaring lawyers who are involved in money laundering, tax evasion, bribery, and other criminal conduct”, the plaintiffs request payment in damages. Furthermore, the lawyers demanded the film not be released. The lawsuit goes on to state that The Laundromat is riddled with false implications of the lawyers and tarnishes their reputation.
Fighting against the clock for the film’s release date, Netflix swiftly filed a motion against the lawsuit. Firing back, Netflix stated the lawsuit is “laughable” and that the pair had “Utterly failed to demonstrate irreparable harm that is an essential prerequisite to the emergency relief they seek”. Netflix believes the lawsuit infringes on the right of free speech. Recently, a judge transferred the case from Connecticut to Los Angeles.
News of The Laundromat’s production has been public for over a year. Last month, the film made the festival circuit with screenings at the Venice Film Festival and Toronto. Needless to say, filing a lawsuit days before the film is set to drop on Netflix is poor timing on Mossack and Fonseca’s part. Films based on real events, including Captain Phillips, Winnie, and Spotlight, have faced legal action by those depicted in the movie but went on to be successful. The Laundromat has been on the Oscar radar for quite some time and will no doubt pull ahead as a success, despite the lawsuit.
The Laundromat is now available to stream on Netflix.