Clinton-Connected Consulting Firm Sues Republican Strategist Ed Rollins


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Ed Rollins, chairman of a Donald Trump super PAC, is being sued for $10 million by Teneo for defamation and breach of contract. He is shown here speaking to reporters in 2011 in Simi Valley, Calif.

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Chris Carlson/Associated Press

Teneo, the corporate consulting firm with ties to the Clintons, filed papers to sue Ed Rollins, a veteran Republican strategist and chairman of a Donald J. Trump super PAC, for defamation and breach of contract over comments made about the firm in recent days.

According to a summons filed in New York State Supreme Court on Monday, the company said it would seek $10 million in damages from Mr. Rollins, who ran Ronald Reagan’s campaign in 1984 and now makes regular appearances on television, often on Fox News.

During a Friday appearance on “Lou Dobbs Tonight” on Fox Business, Mr. Rollins, a senior adviser at Teneo until this year, made comments cited by the company as defamatory and a breach of its contract because they included “confidential information,” according to the summons.

The company also cited Mr. Rollins’s statements to The New York Times for an article about the firm published last month.

Mr. Rollins said in an interview on Tuesday that he shared no confidential information and that he was in discussions with his lawyers about filing a countersuit against the company.

“For a strategy company, it shows that they’re not very smart,” Mr. Rollins said. “Obviously I’m not going to roll over and play dead. I’m an old fighter. If they want to go at it, we’ll go at it. They can depose me and I can depose them.”

Threats of legal action in response to public statements and articles have been a notable feature of the 2016 presidential campaign. Mr. Trump, the Republican nominee, has frequently told attendees at his rallies that he would like to change the country’s libel laws to more easily go after media organizations.

The summons sent by Teneo to Mr. Rollins on Monday was a prominent instance of a defamation claim that actually proceeded into the courts.

Teneo is a sprawling international company that provides strategic advice to chief executives from some of the country’s largest companies. It has been the subject of Republican congressional scrutiny related to its ties to former President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.

Emails obtained and released by WikiLeaks have detailed some of the relationships between Teneo clients, the Clinton Foundation and Douglas J. Band, a Teneo founder who is also a top aide to Mr. Clinton.

It was not clear which statement by Mr. Rollins prompted the suit.

But he said in the interview on Tuesday, after his television appearance, he received a cease-and-desist letter from Teneo on Saturday citing his comments on Mr. Dobbs’s show about Huma Abedin. Ms. Abedin, a close adviser to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, briefly worked for Teneo in 2012.

During the television appearance, Mr. Rollins and Mr. Dobbs discussed the revelation, hours before, that federal agents were inspecting newly discovered emails possibly connected to the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server. The emails were on a computer shared by Ms. Abedin and her estranged husband, Anthony D. Weiner, a disgraced former New York congressman who is the subject of an unrelated federal investigation into his sending of lewd pictures.

Mr. Rollins suggested that Ms. Abedin may have used the same computer during her time at Teneo. He also referred to a policy, reported by The Times, that was instituted by the company last year to remove old emails from its computers.

“So my sense is, she probably thought whatever she had on her computer was gone,” he said on the show. “I think this may have been the outside computer that she used at home, or what have you.”

A spokesman for Teneo declined to comment on the lawsuit. The company has said that Mr. Rollins was fired for “egregiously breaching” his employment contract. Mr. Rollins disputes that characterization of his departure from the firm after four years.

Mr. Rollins said he received the summons on Monday evening as he left his apartment building on East 66th Street in Manhattan to go to the Fox studios for a television appearance. He saw a black sport utility vehicle and mistakenly assumed the man who stepped out was his driver.

In fact, the man was serving him with the summons. “I said, ‘I’m going to Fox,’” Mr. Rollins recalled saying. “He said, ‘No, you’re going to court.’”

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