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BusinessWeek Not Responsible For Ruining Microsoft Exec, Jury RulesBusinessWeek Not Responsible For Ruining Microsoft Exec, Jury Rules

The jury rejected a claim by former Microsoft director of IT audits Peter Tilton that he had been promised anonymity in exchange for an interview.

Paul McDougall

December 20, 2007

2 Min Read

A former Microsoft executive who ended up jobless, broke, and separated from his wife after being identified by name and quoted in a BusinessWeek story about dysfunctional workplaces has lost a lawsuit he filed against the magazine and the reporter who wrote the story.

The jury rejected a claim by former Microsoft director of IT audits Peter Tilton that BusinessWeek reporter Michelle Conlin had promised him anonymity in exchange for an interview on the work environment at the software maker. The jury handed down its decision last week in U.S. District Court in Seattle, according to court records. Tilton sued BusinessWeek and Conlin in December 2005, more than a year after the magazine ran a story headlined "I'm A Bad Boss? Blame My Dad." The story described how Tilton began "yelling his head off" after taking a verbal jab at a meeting from a colleague that Tilton described in the story as "incompetent." In the lawsuit, Tilton claimed that Conlin promised that neither he nor Microsoft would be identified. When Tilton discovered that he had been identified in the story, "he was plunged into an anguished state of mind and deep paranoia about his career," according to court papers. Tilton claimed that in the months following the story's publication he became isolated at work, distant from his wife, and began to struggle financially. He said he was forced to resign from Microsoft in May 2005. At the time of the lawsuit's filing, Tilton was "living estranged from his wife in less than desirable conditions with no income or savings," court records state. The article had created a black cloud "that reached across his life and marriage," the lawsuit claimed. In their defense, Conlin and BusinessWeek claimed that no promise of confidentiality was ever extended to Tilton -- an argument that the jury apparently believed when it turned in its verdict last week.

About the Author(s)

Paul McDougall

Editor At Large, InformationWeek

Paul McDougall is a former editor for InformationWeek.

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