In what cases may I threaten to publish disparaging information about a corporation if certain demands are not met?

For example

1) Suppose my HVAC contractor overbills me and demands payment. I tell them I don't owe them, so they sue me. I do some research and realize that they have sued 137 people in the last two years for the same reason. Can I threaten to collect and send this information to the local newspaper if they don't drop the lawsuit? Can I ask them to pay my legal bills?

2) I've been working for a company for 15 years and haven't got a raise. I now know a lot about the company. I also have a blog that is well read in the community. Can I threaten to "quit loudly and publicly" if I don't get a raise?

1 Answer 1


A simple definition of blackmail is:

the crime of threatening to tell secret information about someone unless the person being threatened gives you money or does what you want

Each jurisdiction will have its own nuances and case law history but that definition is close enough.

  1. Is not blackmail because the information is not secret, records of who sues who are public information. What you describe would be a valid and probably ineffectual negotiating tactic; if they launch that many lawsuits they aren't going to care who knows it, in fact, they may think it will be effective in making others pay, "See how tough we are". It would probably be more effective to say that you will try to have them declared a vexatious litigant, of course, that won't work if they usually win.
  2. This is, more than likely, blackmail assuming that what you are planning on divulging is confidential. Even if it is not blackmail it is a breach of the duty you owe your employer (even an ex-employer).
  • Thanks. Quick follow up: In case 1) The HVAC company stands to lose a ton of business if this gets out, as most people would steer clear of a place with that many customer disagreements. How far can I go in my threat - for example, can I line up a PR firm to make sure articles about their practices are published extensively? Commented May 3, 2016 at 15:26
  • ..and before you even ask why I would want to do this (threaten to go on a warpath against a vexatious litigant) I'll answer. Suppose this is the only thing in the entire universe that I want to do and it makes me euphoric. Commented May 3, 2016 at 15:28
  • Could you elaborate on 2.? What do you mean by complementary? And isn't an employee quitting their job non-secret information? I say "non-secret", as I'm not sure that information, legally, is seen as only either secret or public. Perhaps a designation of "public information" requires that any individual has the right to access the information and/or that it is at the time of discussion, publicly available. If the company has a public record of employees, the information of OP's quitting would be public. If not, then it's perhaps not public, but one has the right to divulge it, no?
    – user110391
    Commented May 12, 2022 at 19:06

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