John Steele and Paul Hansmeier (who various courts have made clear, make up the core of "Team Prenda") are engaged in so many different lawsuits in which they're getting hit with so many different orders to pay up for their questionable behavior that it may be difficult to keep up. However, in Northern California last month, Judge Edward Chen ruled that Steele and Hansmeier are liable
for sanctions and attorneys' fees awarded against "AF Holdings," the semi-mysterious shell company set up in Nevis, which many people (including courts) have recognized was almost certainly set up by Steele and Hansmeier themselves as some sort of way to (a) hide the fact that they were representing themselves and (b) to hide where the money goes. Of course, as court after court has seen through this charade, things aren't looking good for Steele and Hansmeier who should
be fearing the eventual law enforcement response to all of this, which is almost certainly approaching.
However, they just can't resist fighting the fight, because that's what they do. When backed into a complete corner, Steele and Hansmeier tend to go into attack mode, trying any and every argument they can possibly think of, no matter how insane
. But, and here's the key, they make those arguments with extreme confidence
, as if only a moron would think they were wrong. The reality, of course, is that almost all of their claims are laughable. Take for example, the latest one in response to Judge Chen's ruling. Steele and Hansmeier have filed very, very similar
filings that (among a few other arguments) try to argue that they cannot be found to be considered the "alter ego" of AF Holdings because Nevis law
says that can only be done with the permission of the people being claimed to be the alter ego.
Under Nevis law, accordingly, a person may become an alter ego of a limited liability company only with his or her express consent.
Yes, AF Holdings was registered in Nevis, but if Steele and Hansmeier automatically think that means they can avoid liability in California, their legal skills are even worse than previously expected. Remember AF Holdings was the one who sued first... in California
. The issue here is who is responsible for the absolutely bogus lawsuit. And the Court has very good reason, and significant evidence to support, that it's John Steele and Paul Hansmeier. Pretending that registering the company in Nevis somehow gives them a get-out-of-jail-free card is laughable.
Meanwhile, across the country, in the one case where Prenda actually seemed to be having some success, in front of former RIAA lobbyist
Beryl Howell, John Steele has withdrawn as counsel
and substituted Prenda buddy Paul Duffy. That, alone, isn't particular noteworthy -- these three guys seem to pass around cases like a group of high school kids under the bleachers passing around a joint. However, what is noteworthy is that in filing this, Steele notes that the "Plaintiff consents to Attorney Steele's withdrawal in this matter, as noted by his signature below." Who's the plaintiff? Why, it's the very same AF Holdings. And whose "signature" is it? Why, it's "Mark Lutz." And the date of the signature is... November 5th.
That's interesting. Because back at the end of September, Mark Lutz continued his magic disappearing act by not appearing
in a Minnesota court, despite being ordered to be there. Hansmeier was given until the next day to explain the disappearance, and filed a substance-free brief
that basically said, "I'm sure Lutz has a good reason, which he'll tell you about when he can." Specifically, Hansmeier told the court:
Based on my prior experience with Mr. Lutz, including Mr. Lutz's in-person attendance before this Court on August 5, 2012, I believe that Mr. Lutz will be able to provide a good-faith reason for failing to make his flight to Minnesota.
While there has been plenty of activity in the docket
for this case (including Hansmeier's weak attempt to get magistrate judge Franklin Noel kicked off
the case), there has been nothing
from Lutz since Hansmeier's promise on October 1st that Lutz would explain what happened. In fact, he hasn't appeared anywhere.
But... suddenly his signature appears on November 5th in a different circuit? Hmm. It would appear he's fairly tardy in getting in his explanation. Of course, there's been some chatter on Twitter wondering if this is really Lutz's signature. We have examples of his actual signature on previous filings, so you can compare. Here's the latest one, supposedly from November 5th:
And here's his notarized signature from May 2nd
My gut reaction is that those were not written by the same person, but I'm not a handwriting expert, so we'll give Lutz the benefit of the doubt. I found another Lutz signature that looks more like the first
, but it's not notarized -- and I've got a lot more confidence in the notarized version.
Of course, here's the issue. If we give Steele and Lutz the benefit of the doubt here that the signature is legitimate -- and I'm willing to do exactly that -- it would appear that they've got a different problem to deal with: the fact that Lutz never explained his absence in Minnesota. I'm trying to think if there's any other option. Either Lutz has flat out ignored a court order in Minnesota, or someone forged his name in DC. If anyone can come up with any other option, I'm all ears. I guess there's the possibility, also, that both things are true -- that he both ignored a court order and
had his signature forged -- but that doesn't make the situation any better...