Business With Shady History Sues Former Employee For Calling It Shady

from the remarks-resented,-resembled dept

ExecSummits, aka Executive Summits, aka CFO Summit, aka HR Summit, aka [Insert Corporate Buzzwords Here] Summit, is suing a former employee/contractor for a number of things -- one of those being defamation.

The lawsuit accuses Michael Healy and Karen Healy (apparently no relation) of absconding with a valuable client list, which they used to build their own "summit" business, G2 Summits. Whether or not this happened remains to be seen, as there's little on the web that details this course of events, other than a comment thread that is apparently the basis for the vague defamation claims scattered about the lawsuit.

In the middle of recitation of various fraud-related allegations, the complaint drops this intriguing hint of things to come:

As recently as September 2, 2015, Defendant MH has contacted clients of Plaintiff in an effort to prevent said clients from attending the September 15, 2015 conference; these efforts have included posting false blogs about Plaintiff on the internet, falsely accusing Plaintiff of having an F rating with the Better Business Bureau, and otherwise slandering Plaintiff and its employees.
"False blogs," eh? Or perhaps it's just Michael Healy's participation in a comment thread attached to a blog post declaring the whole of Michael Price's Executive Summits business model to be on the scammy side.

The claims raised in Healy's comments suggest he was hired by BizSummits (another arm of the ExecSummits megacorp). Soon afterward, he allegedly discovered the company was pretty much just a front for an email harvesting scheme. So he abandoned ship to start his own company. Whether or not the client list ExecSummits/BizSummits had already obtained went with him remains to be seen, but another rep of BizSummits, Kristin Mathias, also appears in the same comment threat to offer BizSummits' side of the story.

The links provided by Healy -- as well as those found through some Googling -- do indeed suggest there's an unsavory side to the BizSummits business. The post above the verbal fistfight notes the company has secured a number of URLs, all of which seem to serve up similar content, as well as the use of pictures sourced from other sites or stock photo collections. The author of the post wonders why a business so steeped in the art of business conferences is unable to produce any photos of the dozens of events it supposedly hosts every year.

This post appeared early last year (March 2014). The debate in the comment thread continued well into this month, abruptly ending with a deleted comment by Michael Healy on Sept. 14, 2015, three days after ExecSummits filed its lawsuit against him.

Since the first eruption, it appears BizSummits, et al have removed the photos blatantly "borrowed" from other sites… mostly. It still makes use of stock photos having nothing to do with the conferences it hosts and still borrows from other sites on occasion.

That, in and of itself, does not suggest Healy's assertions are all truthful or defensible. But the complaint against him doesn't exactly say WHAT it finds objectionable about Healy's claims. It only makes vague assertions.
Defendant MH, via written and oral communications, has falsely and maliciously made false charges regarding Plaintiff in reference to its trade and profession that were calculated to injure Plaintiff.

As recently as September 2, 2015, Defendant MH, using Plaintiffs confidential trade secrets, contacted a client of Plaintiff in an effort to defame Plaintiff and in an effort to re-direct this client to Defendant MH.

As a result of Defendant MH's actions, Plaintiff has been damaged in an amount to be proven at trial.
Presumably, this all refers to the contents of this comment thread. Oddly, BizSummits has shown no interest in going after the person behind the Dynamoo blog, which has several posts detailing sketchy actions by the many faces of BizSummits.

It has, however, brought legal threats against other people who have publicly questioned the legitimacy of its business. Back in 2012, a blogger did some investigating after receiving spam "invitations" from BizSummits (d/b/a in this particular email as CMO Summits). What she found was a vast network of "summits," none of which seemed to offer a verifiable product. She also uncovered more evidence that BizSummits is actually in the business of selling email lists -- using email addresses gathered in a rather illegitimate fashion.

This is from a since-archived SpamHaus ROSKO (Register of Known Spam Operations) report on Michael Price and BizSummits.
Michael Price runs a company selling harvested email lists. They scrape addresses from various sources including websites and then "verify" that their addresses are deliverable by sending out so-called "seminar invitations" or "health warnings".

If someone complains about this activity online such as in a blog entry, Michael threatens to sue them AND their employer if the blog is not taken down.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

http://forum.spamcop.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=14015&mode=linear

"We are getting two to three of these a day as well. The thing we notice is that the email address always has a different name before the @. We sell movie posters, and have noticed that all of these spam emails we have been receiving are addressed to movie stars such as Robert De Niro, so the email address will read rdeniro[at]moviepostersetc.com or Marilyn Monroe, and the email address will be marilynmonroe[at]moviepostersetc.com.

It seems as if some robot is just pulling random names from our site, and creating email addresses for them using our domain as the stem. Unfortunately, our email account is catching all of these emails. The emails are coming from various domains, and don't seem to have any purpose whatsoever, unless they are phishing for valid email addresses and see what bounces back and what sticks."
More research confirming this is available at the Dynamoo blog.

Roughly a year later, Michael Price emailed a legal threat to the blogger.
Talia, I am one of the principals at BizSummits and just became aware of your libelous blog about us and our CMO Summit which you refer to as a “scam” and “scammers”. We are certainly not, I am shocked by what you wrote, and I would ask that you immediately take down that libelous post in its entirety or we will have no choice but to take legal action against you personally and YOUR WORKPLACE in the Superior Court of Denver.
The nastiest part of this threat (beyond its baselessness -- as Talia had linked to and provided screenshots of everything she had uncovered) is Price's willingness to sabotage the blogger's employment in order to silence her. Not that it worked. And not that Price ever followed through with his legal threat.

Price threatened another recipient of his company's solicitation emails back in 2010. He went after blogger Andrew Badera in 2011, similarly threatening Badera's employment over something written on a non-work-related blog.
Overnight I got a random email, at my WORK address, (new, private, unpublished) from someone (Michael Price, CEOVentures) claiming to own the email/the domain/the organization, that it's not a scam. I replied, asking the guy to take the email to a non-work point of contact. He responds by CALLING me at the office, then follows up with more email saying that I need to retract my statement, send him notice I've done so, or he will file a lawsuit against -- get this -- not just me, but also my new-ish fulltime employer, who of course has nothing to do with this.
So, we have a sense of BizSummits/Michael Price's general response to criticism of its "marketing" tactics.

On the other hand, we have the accusations against Michael Healy, who supposedly ran off with a copy of BizSummits' prospect list, one that possibly was harvested in a less-than-straightforward manner. The question is: what good will it do him? If it's loaded with clients who've already learned to route "summit"-related emails to the Spam folder, it's likely to be of little use to G2 Summits, who will probably be sending plenty of emails of their own.

That doesn't mitigate the alleged damages. Theft of a client list is still theft, no matter how little actual value the list contains.

The additional problem -- one that really isn't going to be addressed through this litigation -- is that G2 Summits appears to be deploying a few questionable tactics of its own.

G2 Summits borrows a (supposed) testimonial from BizSummits, word-for-word.

G2 Summits:


Tech Summits:


There's also the problem with its staff, which contains an unverifiable employee.


(Reverse image search turns up nothing on either of the non-Healy participants. "Frank" is apparently Frank Netherwood and his bio checks out. "Maria" is a complete unknown. And you'll have to inspect elements to suss out the image URLs... for reasons only known to the web designers.)

Now, G2 Summits may be completely above board, but there's nothing on the site (or elsewhere) that backs up its event-hosting claims -- like perhaps some photos of the actual events.

As to the defamation claims, Healy did claim to have emails from disgruntled clients of BizSummits seeking refunds for nonexistent events. If so, these will presumably come out in discovery if the case goes that far. This appears to be the first time BizSummits has actually sued anyone despite a history dotted with legal threats to small-scale bloggers. As for the spam techniques investigated by Dynamoo and verified by SpamHaus, BizSummits/ExecSummits' boss claims these were acts of recently-purchased "partners" and have since been cleaned up. And maybe the spam is truly gone (there don't seem to be any recent complaints), but even if so, the company's remaining "services" aren't impressing many people.

Whatever the case may be at the present, it's somewhat interesting that ExecSummits (and its various iterations) would actually follow through with something that might expose any questionable tactics it employs. I would take this to mean it has a pretty solid case against Healy… although the opposite could be quite true. Not every lawsuit filed is a wise one -- something we've definitely seen proven over the years.

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Filed Under: client lists, defamation, summits
Companies: execsummits, executive summits


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2015 @ 7:48am

    Re:

    Of course it's not theft, since that term can't apply in this context.

    It's a copy of the end result of a process that involves a nonzero amount of human and automated work. Spammer Michael Price may call it a "client list", but since there is no evidence in front of us that any clients actually exist, that's a misnomer.

    However it's worth noting that the only possible use for these lists is abuse. Whether it's done directly or by proxy (i.e., by someone who purchases the lists) is open for speculation, but that's all they're good for.

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