Sony Pictures is close to reaching a court settlement after nine former employees filed a lawsuit claiming that the company failed to protect sensitive data after a cyber attack stemming from the release of the controversial film The Interview in 2014.
The court filings show that the plaintiffs now have until 19 October to lodge a preliminary approval of the proposed settlement. No exact financial information has been made public at this stage.
The suit was filed by former Sony employees Ella Carline Archibeque, Marcela Bailey, Michael Corona, Joshua Forster, Michael Levine, Christina Mathis, Steven Shapiro and Geoffrey Springer. It accuses Sony of failing to protect data including Social Security numbers, healthcare records and salary information.
Sony suffered a major cyber attack in November by a group calling itself Guardians of Peace which was thought to have originated in North Korea.
"We've obtained all your internal data, including your secrets and top secrets. If you don't obey us, we'll release data shown below to the world," the group said in a message posted on the Sony website at the time.
The hackers accessed highly sensitive corporate data and published it online, which quickly prompted a delay in the release of The Interview, a satirical look at North Korea, after threats by the hacking group.
Sony president and chief executive Kazuo Hirai played down the long-term effects of the cyber attack when asked in a recent interview with CNBC whether he is confident that a similar hack could not happen again.
"We beef up security every time, obviously. We look at this all the time. There's nothing that's perfect in that space, but we try to do everything that's possible to make sure that our information and all the assets are well protected," he said.
When asked whether the cyber attack was partially responsible for a recent 12 percent slump in Sony sales, Hirai claimed that the decline had more to do with product line-ups than the cyber attack disclosures.
"I think this is not really something that is attributable to the cyber attack per se. It's really just a product line-up or portfolio pipeline issue," he said.
"One of the things that we've done recently is brought in new management in the Sony Pictures studio to make sure that we have a fresh pair of eyes to take a look at the studio operations."
Nevertheless, it was revealed during the release of Sony's third-quarter financial results earlier this year that the clean-up from the hack will cost up to $15m.
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