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Vox Media, Inc. v. Mansfield

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 20, 2018

VOX MEDIA, INC., Plaintiff,


          Emmet G. Sullivan, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Vox Media, Inc. (“Vox”) brings suit against its former employee Defendant Graig Mansfield for allegedly defrauding the company by taking over $200, 000 of its assets for his own use. Vox's complaint includes four counts against Mr. Mansfield for (1) fraud; (2) fraudulent concealment; (3) conversion; and (4) unjust enrichment. Pending before the Court is Mr. Mansfield's motion to dismiss Vox's complaint. See Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 14. Upon consideration of the motion, the response and reply thereto, and the relevant law, Mr. Mansfield's motion to dismiss is DENIED.

         I. Background

         Vox is a digital media company organized under Delaware law with its principal place of business in the District of Columbia. Compl., ECF No. 1 ¶ 2. Vox creates and distributes news content online “covering sports, culture, technology, and politics, among other subjects.” Id. In August 2012, Vox hired Mr. Mansfield to work as its “Procurement Manager” within the finance and accounting department. Id. ¶¶ 8, 9. Mr. Mansfield worked in that position for three years, until he left Vox in June 2015 and moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he currently resides. Id. ¶¶ 3, 8, 21. As Procurement Manager, Mr. Mansfield “coordinat[ed] procurement methods; manag[ed] data from company cards, expense reports, and corporate accounts for budget reporting; and monitor[ed] spend[ing] levels.” Id. ¶ 9. Mr. Mansfield also managed Vox's corporate credit card account and its various frequent-flier and travel reward accounts. Id. ¶¶ 10, 15. Upon joining Vox, Mr. Mansfield “acknowledged and agreed to abide by” Vox's “Employee Handbook.” Id. ¶ 11. In so doing, he “agreed to ‘serve the Company faithfully and use [his] best efforts to promote its interests.'” Id. He also agreed he would not damage, destroy, or steal company property. Id.

         Vox applied for its corporate credit card in May 2012. Id. ¶ 13. The credit card had a “rewards program” under which a customer earned “points” based on the customer's spending. Id. ¶¶ 13, 16. The customer could use the points to purchase travel or merchandise or simply convert the points to cash or cash-equivalent bonus cards. Id. ¶ 16. A corporate customer could choose to enroll the company itself in the rewards program or allow individual employees to earn the points. Id. ¶ 13. Vox chose to enroll the company itself; therefore, “all points accrued from company [credit] cards under the rewards program would be for Vox Media's use.” Id. Likewise, Vox enrolled itself in travel reward accounts that operated similarly. Id. ¶¶ 15, 16. The company did not authorize individuals to redeem or transfer the company's travel or credit card points for personal use. Id. ¶¶ 13, 14. During Mr. Mansfield's tenure, Vox had not dedicated a specific use for the rewards points; it was “deliberating” and put the points “aside until the company had determined a use for them.” Id. ¶ 18.

         Vox alleges that Mr. Mansfield “betrayed the company” by “secretly stealing from it throughout his employment, and even afterwards.” Id. ¶ 19. According to Vox, Mr. Mansfield “repeatedly use[d] his control over the corporate credit card and travel accounts to transfer cash . . . or reward points . . . to his personal accounts.” Id. For example, Mr. Mansfield allegedly converted rewards points to cash-equivalent gift cards and instructed the merchants to send the gift cards to his personal address. Id. He also allegedly used the rewards points to purchase luxury goods-including a watch worth over $1, 700- which he also sent to his personal address. Id. ¶¶ 19, 22. Mr. Mansfield also allegedly bought himself airline tickets using Vox's frequent-flier points. Id. ¶ 19.

         According to Vox, Mr. Mansfield “continued this theft long after he left his position” in June 2015. Id. ¶ 22. He allegedly continued using Vox's points until at least February 2016. Id. From March 2013 through at least February 2016, Mr. Mansfield allegedly stole over $210, 000 worth of Vox's assets. Id. ¶¶ 28, 30. Vox discovered Mr. Mansfield's alleged scheme in April 2016 and filed its complaint on April 14, 2017. See Id. ¶ 26-29.

         II. Standard of Review

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quotations and citations omitted).

         Despite this liberal pleading standard, to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotations and citations omitted). A claim is facially plausible when the facts pled in the complaint allow the court to “draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. The standard does not amount to a “probability requirement, ” but it does require more than a “sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.

         “[W]hen ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss [pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)], a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint.” Atherton v. D.C. Office of the Mayor, 567 F.3d 672, 681 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (internal quotations and citations omitted). In addition, the court must give the plaintiff the “benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.” Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994). Even so, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements” are not sufficient to state a claim. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         III. Analysis

         Mr. Mansfield moves to dismiss Vox's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 14. He makes two arguments: (1) Vox's complaint is time-barred; and (2) Vox has not sufficiently pled fraudulent concealment. See Id. The Court considers each argument in turn.

         A. It is Premature to Dismiss Vox's ...

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