Rachel Whetstone. Photo by Toru Yamanaka//AFP/GettyImages

Former Uber Southeast Asia executive Eric Alexander this week sued former Uber communications chief Rachel Whetstone (soon joining Netflix) for allegedly breaching a two-way non-disparagement agreement.

Why it matters: This case could remind potential media sources they have few legal privacy protections.

The details: Alexander's complaint relates to the 2014 rape of a female Uber passenger in India, and media reports that Alexander obtained the victim's medical records and handled them improperly.

  • In his filing, Alexander claims he received the documents legally from an Uber-retained India law firm (as part of the overall case file,) and at the request of Uber corporate.
  • He also believes Whetstone was a source of the media reports, although she was not identified in the reports and Alexander presents no specific evidence.

Between the lines: There is lots of he-said/she-said stuff in the complaint, but let's just focus on the core claim and the case's broader implications:

  • The involved reporters (Recode's Kara Swisher and Bloomberg's Eric Newcomer) are covered by a media shield law in California, so neither would be required to divulge their sources.
  • But Rachel Whetstone would have no such protections and, in theory, the judge could allow a plaintiff request for things like phone or email records. Particularly if Alexander persuasively claims that it's the only viable way to discover a core piece of potential evidence.
  • Sources don't have legal privacy protections, according to a media attorney who spoke with Axios. They are almost never sued because it's highly unusual for a "violated" party to know a leaker's identity with any degree of certainty, but theoretically it can happen.
  • Alexander's decision to only sue Whetstone — after reportedly considering a broader defendant class — likely speaks to his effort to minimize the appearance of a fishing expedition.

Be smart: That said, even if Alexander can receive Whetstone's records — and even if they show she communicated with the reporters about him (yes, a big "if") — he would still have to prove that her comments were factually untrue.

Whetstone declined comment, and Alexander's attorney didn't get back to me. Uber, which isn't named as a defendant, also declined comment — including on the question of if it did or didn't ask Alexander to obtain the victim file — as did former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

Go deeper

Former officer who shot Breonna Taylor indicted on wanton endangerment

A memorial to Breonna Taylor in downtown Louisville, Kentucky on Sept. 23. Photo: Jeff Dean/AFP via Getty Images

A grand jury has indicted Brett Hankison, one of the Louisville police officers who entered Breonna Taylor's home in March and shot her at least eight times, on three counts of wanton endangerment.

The state of play: None of the three officers involved in the botched drug raid will face charges related to the actual death of Taylor, such as homicide or manslaughter. The two other officers, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, were not charged at all. Hankison's bond was set at $15,000.

FDA chief vows agency will not accept political pressure on coronavirus vaccine

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn promised that "science will guide our decision" for a coronavirus vaccine at a Senate hearing on Wednesday.

Why it matters: More Americans are expressing doubt about a first-generation vaccine, despite President Trump's efforts to push an unrealistic timeline that conflicts with medical experts in his administration.

CEO confidence rises for the first time in over 2 years

Data: Business Roundtable; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

A closely-watched CEO economic confidence index rose for the first time after declining for nine straight quarters, according to a survey of 150 chief executives of the biggest U.S. companies by trade group Business Roundtable.

Why it matters: The index, which still remains at a decade low, reflects corporate America's expectations for sales, hiring and spending — which plummeted amid uncertainty when the pandemic hit.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!