Pissed Consumer Sues Reputation Management Firms Over Their Bogus Lawsuit/Fake Defendant/Takedown Scams
from the well,-here-we-go... dept
In the last few weeks, we’ve written a few posts about Richart Ruddie’s company, Profile Defenders, which appears to be “improving reputations” online by filing bogus defamation lawsuits, finding a bogus made-up “defendant” to “admit” to posting defamatory information, reaching a “settlement” and getting a court order. The whole scheme is about getting that court order, which is then sent on to Google and others (mainly Google). The whole point: if Google sees a court order saying that some content is defamatory, it will de-index that page. That the whole process to get that court order is a total sham is basically ignored. That may be changing. We were just noting that some of Profile Defenders’ cases are in trouble, and at least one has had the court order vacated.
Of course, it appears that Ruddie and Profile Defenders are not the only ones playing this game of judicial fraud. We wrote about a bunch of similar cases back in March that were targeting the online review site Pissed Consumer and some other review sites. At the time, Pissed Consumer had found 11 such lawsuits. In that article, we noted some of the lawyers and firms that appeared to be either involved or benefiting from these cases. And it appears that Pissed Consumer has had enough — and has sued (represented by Marc Randazaa).
You can read the full complaint, which is an interesting read. It goes into great detail on each of the different cases that it’s suing over, but the introduction to the complaint lays out the basics. I’m reposting it in full (minus some citations) here because it’s a good summary:
This case involves a creative solution to a common frustration for many businesses, who do not like negative reviews that are published about them on the Internet. However, removing consumer reviews from the Internet is a difficult process given that they are protected by the First Amendment.
Nevada Corporate Headquarters, has gone to great lengths to attempt to suppress consumer reviews in the past. It has filed at least one SLAPP suit in Nevada seeking injunctive relief to censor those negative reviews. In that case, Nevada Corporate Headquarters suffered a resounding loss when they were hit with an anti-SLAPP order…. They also lost at summary judgment in a SLAPP-back suit. That action resulted in a significant judgment for attorney fees and costs….
Undaunted by these set-backs, Nevada Corporate Headquarters has now conspired with other companies and individuals to create a scam whereby they suppress negative reviews from the Internet, while evading any First Amendment or due process considerations. This scam also allows them to avoid the risk of another anti-SLAPP attorney fee award.
Several other businesses and professionals who have been the subject of negative reviews online have also employed the same fraudulent machinery as Nevada Corporate Headquarters, as a means of removing this content while evading detection and liability.
The scam is not all that complicated. Google will remove search engine results from its well-known search engine if it is provided with a court order determining that the information is indeed defamatory.
However, when Nevada Corporate Headquarters sued consumer review websites in the past, it was severely disappointed. (See Exhibits 1 & 2.) Therefore, they needed to concoct a new censorship scam. So they used a stooge plaintiff, ZCS Inc. (“ZCS”), to sue a stooge defendant, Collins Mattos (“Mattos”).
Defendant Doe Corporations, so called ?reputation management companies,? conceived and organized the scam as an alternative way to remove negative posts in lieu of undergoing an adversarial proceeding. Several other businesses and professionals have contacted these ?reputation management companies,? which have used similar schemes to remove negative consumer reviews about them.
The other conspirators engaged attorneys Mark W. Lapham (“Lapham”) and Owen T. Mascott (?Mascott?) to file sham lawsuits either by the subjects of the negative reviews or by corporations that had no interest in the allegedly defamatory statements, against a defendant who most certainly was not the party that published the allegedly defamatory statements, and the parties immediately stipulated to a judgment of injunctive relief, so the conspirators could provide the order to Google and other search engines, thus achieving the goal of deindexing all pages containing negative reviews.
At first blush, Defendants? scam appears rather brilliant but incredibly unethical. Now that Plaintiff has uncovered and exposed Defendants? unlawful deeds, Consumer Opinion LLC respectfully requests that this Court discipline them for those misdeeds.
The rest of the filing goes into a lot more details about these court orders, obtained under false pretenses.
The actual claims in the case are for unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices, abuse of process and civil conspiracy. As we’ve seen in other cases, actually getting lawyers disciplined for such bad behavior is actually fairly rare. But Randazza has a history of being a bulldog about these kinds of things (remember Righthaven?). This should be an interesting case to follow.