Prenda's Former Porn Client Comes Forward About His Fears Of Working With Prenda

from the look-at-that dept

Claire Suddath, writing for Bloomberg Businessweek, has written up a pretty comprehensive article about John Steele, Paul Hansmeier and Prenda Law. If, for some reason, you haven't been following this story through all the blog posts, Suddath's article is a pretty good way to catch up on the basics. There are a lot of little things left out, but most of the key points are mentioned. There is one interesting new bit of info in there, which is that Suddath spoke to one of Steele and Hansmeier's earliest porn clients (back before they switched to only suing on behalf of shell companies controlled by people associated with Steele and Hansmeier), Paul Pilcher of Hard Drive Productions. Pilcher explains that his deal with Steele and Hansmeier was a 50/50 split on any revenue gained, and that Steele and Hansmeier took care of everything, such that he had no idea about the various lawsuits. He just cashed the checks.
The money started rolling in. "They would send me a check for, let's say, $35,000, for a month," Pilcher says. "They'd be pounding their chest and jumping up and down, thinking they were the greatest in the world." Over a year and a half, Steele and Hansmeier filed a total of 65 suits on behalf of Hard Drive against 4,760 people, according to court documents. Pilcher earned just under $200,000, he says, but he never knew what was happening with the suits, how many there were, or who exactly his company was suing. "Getting information out of [Steele and Hansmeier] was honestly kind of painful," he says. "They claimed they didn't want me to have records of specific things in case something happened."
Now that's interesting. Have you ever heard of lawyers telling their own clients that they don't want the client to have records of lawsuits filed by that client "in case something happened"? Wow. Pilcher accepted this, even after courts started ruling against Prenda.
In early 2012, Hard Drive was sued twice for harassing plaintiffs to settle claims. Prenda took care of everything—Pilcher didn't even have to show up in court—but he started to wonder what his lawyers were up to. "I got very uncomfortable feelings from them," he says. "But I figured, Well, if there are judges involved, and they're ruling for us, and money is coming in, then it must be OK."
Now, Pilcher seems to realize that getting in bed with Steele and Hansmeier was a big mistake, and recognizes that lawyers may be gunning for him next.
The prospect of thousands of other people doing the same, or worse, terrifies Pilcher, although his Hard Drive Productions stopped working with Prenda last fall. "If these guys fold, I don't know if I'll have people coming out of the woodwork to sue or countersue," he says. "I'm obviously legally exposed."
Seems like an important lesson for other content providers thinking of going into the trolling game. It can come back to bite you. In the meantime, I wonder if Judge Wright or others might be interested in hearing some details from Pilcher about his experiences working with Steele and Hansmeier.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    GMacGuffin (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 11:30am

    Have you ever heard of lawyers telling their own clients that they don't want the client to have records of lawsuits filed by that client "in case something happened"?

    Damn that pesky ethical duty to advise your client of significant developments ...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 31st, 2013 @ 11:54am

    Ahh. Taking the fifth doesn't mean other people have to stay quiet!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Nicholas Weaver (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 11:58am

    I suspect its 50% AFTER "expenses"

    I'd suspect also that it was 50% AFTER "expenses" which Prenda padded mercilessly. If Mike can get in touch with Mr Pilcher, it might be worth asking about that, since with all the other difficulties, I wouldn't put hollywood-level accounting past the Prendarists.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 11:59am

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Michael, May 31st, 2013 @ 12:02pm

    Wow

    I got very uncomfortable feelings from them

    Take a moment and let that sink in. These lawyers were so shady that a PORN PRODUCER was uncomfortable with their practices.

    "Turn around, bend over, stick this whip in here, move the goat a little to the left...boy, that John Steele guy is creepy.'

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 12:11pm

    Re: Wow

    ...and not any pornographer, but one who recruits young ladies and whose "company" is being investigated for engaging with underage girls.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 12:11pm

    Re: Wow

    ...and not any pornographer, but one who recruits young ladies and whose "company" is being investigated for engaging with underage girls.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    gyffes, May 31st, 2013 @ 12:17pm

    Underage?

    Don't post their address... outoftheblue and/or that other asshat will apply for a job there.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 31st, 2013 @ 12:29pm

    wtf math

    I find it hard to believe that Prenda only made $6150 per case, or $84 per defendant over a time period of a year and a half.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 31st, 2013 @ 12:37pm

    If your business is the type where licking ass is a-okay and you say someone else is fucked up that scares me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    anonymous, May 31st, 2013 @ 12:40pm

    Re: wtf math

    Those figures are only for one client. Prenda and Steele had many other clients.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    Mark D. (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 12:48pm

    Re:

    I don't think that's an ethical duty, it's more like the entire reason lawyers exist to begin with.

    The client is the one that's going to be responsible for their lawyer's actions, so it's their absolute right to know what their lawyers are doing under their name. HDP should have cut and run and filed a bar complaint immediately after they heard that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 31st, 2013 @ 12:49pm

    Re: Re: Wow

    how is that different from any porn company ever?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    Mark D. (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 12:50pm

    Re:

    There is a difference between things that gross some people out and things that harm other people. Learn the difference, and learn which one is bad and which isn't.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 1:11pm

    Re: Re: Wow

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    Wally (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 1:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: Wow

    Because if you looked at the Tanner Stages of the girls featured...you could easily start an investigation based on that. I had to take a human development course as a prerequisite for my undergrad...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    Wally (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 1:34pm

    Re: wtf math

    By suing thousands of individuals at a time, that is how the figured get so high.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    sorrykb (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 1:41pm

    Guy hires shady firm, is surprised when it does shady things

    I seem to recall a saying about reaping what you sow...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    Wally (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 1:41pm

    Well now we can add criminal charges :-)

    ""They claimed they didn't want me to have records of specific things in case something happened."

    This statement from Paul Pilcher is enough to completely disbar all of Prenda from ever practicing law again.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Wow

    Wow. Just wow. That link. And these people were uncomfortable working with OOTB's copyright hero buddies Prenda?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 1:43pm

    Re: Underage?

    By other asshat did you mean horse with no brain?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 1:45pm

    Re: Well now we can add criminal charges :-)

    We can only hope.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    Wally (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 1:46pm

    Re: Re:

    Prenda asked Hard Drive Productions not to keep records...Prenda acted on its own and Hard Drive Productions had no clue what was going on until 2012 and cut ties with them soon after they realized what was going on.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    Wally (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 1:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Wow

    I think OOTB just posts nonsense some times because she doesn't get enough attention in real life.

    And yes as for the link......that's how about 90% of the Internet porn genera of "Amateur Girls" operates. I am in total and utter shock that the people do that are afraid of Prenda....I'm definitely not ruling out the possibility that Prenda is working like a mafia, if not worse. My heart and my gut tells me there is more shocking news than even this...I just hope I can personally stomach it as my feelings tell me there is something much much worse behind Prenda than what has surfaced here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 2:28pm

    No innocence here

    "Getting information out of [Steele and Hansmeier] was honestly kind of painful," he says. "They claimed they didn't want me to have records of specific things in case something happened."


    The second that your lawyer is telling you not to have records "in case something happens" is the moment that you should realize your lawyer is doing something so wrong that even he knows it's wrong. The very next moment is the one where you fire him.

    Hard Drive was engaging in what amounts to willful ignorance. They are just as morally at fault as Prenda.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    GMacGuffin (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 2:55pm

    Re: Re:

    Oh, it's an ethical duty ... for obviousness-impaired lawyers.

    The CA Rule: B&PC 6068(m) and CRPC 3-500 are essentially the same as MR 1.4(a). Each requires a lawyer to keep a client reasonably informed about significant developments relating to the representation and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.

    * * *
    ABA Model Rule 1.4: Communication

    (a) A lawyer shall:

    (1) promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client's informed consent, as defined in Rule 1.0(e), is required by these Rules;

    (2) reasonably consult with the client about the means by which the client's objectives are to be accomplished;

    (3) keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter;

    (4) promptly comply with reasonable requests for information; and

    (5) consult with the client about any relevant limitation on the lawyer's conduct when the lawyer knows that the client expects assistance not permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.

    (b) A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    Internet Zen Master (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 3:27pm

    Re: No innocence here

    Well, depending on your point of view, Hard Drive was already morally at fault for producing porn in the first place.

    That being said, I'd rather not have them charged for being "morally at fault" for Prenda's actions. Sure, they're far from innocent little angels, but hardened copyfraud schemers like Steele et al. (sans Gibbs the fall guy) Paul Pilcher & his cohorts are definitely not.

    And like everyone else has said: "Shady company hires shady law firm. Shady company is shocked(shocked, I tell you!) when they realize that their lawyers are doing shady things."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 31st, 2013 @ 4:59pm

    John Steele, out of the blue and horse with no name just hate it when due process is enforced.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    Mark D. (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 6:08pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    It's really more a quibble over labelling. I'm not saying lawyers don't have to do these things; I'm saying it's not a matter of ethics, it's the entire reason the lawyer is being paid in the first place.

    Not doing that isn't an ethical violation, it's a "you aren't even doing your fucking job right!" violation.

    Just splitting hairs really, no point in arguing it too much.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    Anon E. Mous (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 10:26pm

    " Pilcher earned just under $200,000, he says, but he never knew what was happening with the suits, how many there were, or who exactly his company was suing. "Getting information out of [Steele and Hansmeier] was honestly kind of painful," he says. "They claimed they didn't want me to have records of specific things in case something happened."


    I love how the Prenda gang told their own client "they didn't want me to have records of specific things in case something happened."

    Imagine that, I am sure that in normal in Lawyer Client relationships, except where Steele and Prenda are concerned.

    I guess when the IRS comes the Federal Garnd Jury investigating the RICO case issues Pilcher a subpoena and visits Pilcher he ought to have some interesting things to tell them.

    Another potential witness to nail the coffin lid shut on the Prenda gang.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 11:10pm

    Re: wtf math

    Those are the numbers reported to the client from their awesome bookkeeping skills... the same skills where no taxes were paid on any income, and money was never placed into trust accounts for their 'clients'.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), May 31st, 2013 @ 11:16pm

    Anyone else wondering why suddenly the former client is showing concern?

    I wonder if he got new representation who explained that if Prenda falls, he might fall with them. So now he's on the record saying I know nothing, I knew nothing, no one blame me.

    Except for he was aware his company was sued for harassment, and cared so much he let the lawyers who ran the cases that got him sued handle it for him.

    I wonder how many other 'former' clients will be coming forward trying to distance themselves...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2013 @ 7:30pm

    Re: Re: No innocence here

    "Well, depending on your point of view, Hard Drive was already morally at fault for producing porn in the first place. "

    I would not go as far as to say whether or not Hard Drive was morally wrong for making porn...but when you consider that they were under investigation for under aged girls...that is the breaking point if you do not think it wrong to making porn.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    btrussell (profile), Jun 2nd, 2013 @ 7:25am

    Re: Re:

    "Learn the difference, and learn which one is bad and which isn't."

    Use a camera and it is legal. Do not use a camera and it is illegal.

    Copyright makes prostitution legal. Hey! A copyright Pro!!

    Drug dealers need to start filming all of their activities and claim they are making a documentary.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    icon
    GMacGuffin (profile), Jun 3rd, 2013 @ 11:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Agreed. That's why I noted the ethics rules are for the "obviousness impaired." We have to take ethics CLE units as well, which my dad notes are silly -- you can't *teach* an adult ethics. They got it or they don't.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This