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Netflix and Stephen Soderberg Sued Over ‘The Laundromat’ Panama Papers Movie
Steven Soderberg’s The Laundromat hasn’t hit Netflix yet, but it’s already making waves. Mossack Fonseca & Co., the now dissolved law firm depicted in the film, have filed a libel and trademark infringement lawsuit against Netflix, arguing that The Laundromat is defamatory.
In the suit filed in Connecticut, Mossack Fonseca & Co. claim that the film “defames and portrays the Plaintiffs as ruthless uncaring lawyers who are involved in money laundering, tax evasion, bribery and/or other criminal conduct. The implications and innuendo converge to cast Plaintiffs in the light of mastermind criminals whose crimes include, but are not limited to, murder, bribery, money laundering and/or corruption. Defendant’s trailer and movie have clearly defamed the Plaintiffs and cast them in the false light of criminality.”
The Laundromat stars Meryl Streep in the story of a widow named Ellen Martin, who was denied an insurance payout upon her husband’s untimely death, as the insurance company didn’t even exist. When Martin follows the trail of shell company after shell company in search of the money she deserves, it leads her to Jürgen Mossack (Antonio Banderas) and Ramón Fonseca (Gary Oldman), two unsavory lawyers embroiled in a dizzying web of financial crookedness. Early reviews of the film have called it textbook Soderbergh—wonky and delightful.
The Laundromat ties into The Panama Papers, a trove of 11.5 million documents leaked in 2015 that revealed the astounding network of shell companies used by the ultra-rich to avoid paying taxes. The documents were leaked from Mossack Fonseca & Co., which specialized in offshore financial services and served as the fourth largest provider of such services. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reported earlier this year that global governments have recouped over $1.2 billion in fines and back taxes as a result of the leaked papers.
Meanwhile, Mossack Fonseca & Co. closed its doors in March 2019 due to the damage, both financial and reputational, caused by its role in epidemic tax evasion.
Netflix has not responded to a request for comment regarding the lawsuit. The Laundromat will begin streaming on Friday, October 18th.
Adrienne Westenfeld is a writer and editor at Esquire, where she covers books and culture.