The Latest In Reputation Management: Bogus Defamation Suits From Bogus Companies Against Bogus Defendants
from the with-unwitting-accomplice,-Judicial-Branch dept
Pissed Consumer has uncovered an apparent abuse of the court system by reputation management firms. Getting allegedly defamatory links delisted by Google requires a court order, which is something very few people can actually obtain. But the plaintiffs featured in this Pissed Consumer post seem to have no trouble acquiring these -- often within a few days of filing their lawsuits.
So far, we have collected 11 cases filed in the Superior Court of Contra Costa County in the State of California, where a very suspicious plaintiff files a lawsuit for defamation on one or several third party websites. The lawsuit is filed for a particular Plaintiff, while benefit (removal from search engine) is obtained by another business entity.Below is just part of the list of cases filed with this court.
What's interesting about all of these cases is how quickly they reach a resolution -- and always in favor of the plaintiff.
In this case it was three weeks. In a normal defamation case, the plaintiff would be lucky to have been granted permission to pursue discovery of the anonymous poster's real identity by this point. But in these cases, not only has the person been identified, but they've also entered a sworn statement admitting their guilt. With this judgment in hand, the plaintiffs approach Google and have the "defamatory" links delisted. (Nearly) instant SEO win.
This suspicious timeline is reflected in other cases filed in the same court.
Now, since it is an anonymous review, let’s ask ourselves a question: how did Attorney Mascott find a defendant in this case without subpoenaing PissedConsumer for their identity? Did he just get lucky? How was Demoin Stroman III, the Defendant in this case, was located just one day after the case had been filed; and not only was located, but also managed to almost immediately provide AttorneyMascott with his fully executed Affidavit? Now, if it were a single case, we could say all this was possible. However, when we are looking at 11 (! ELEVEN ) cases in Contra Costa county in California with exactly the same pattern, it “all this” starts looking quite suspicious…Just as suspicious is the fact that the defamed party apparently knew the defamer (found him in one day!) but still chose to go through the court system, rather than have the defamer provide a notarized letter to Pissed Consumer directly to get the original review taken down, rather than just the Google search results.
But this is all about cleaning up search results, rather than actually hunting down the real people behind the anonymous Pissed Consumer postings. The court order obtained in this case doesn't even refer to the original posting, nor its actual URL.
The allegedly defamatory statements as presented in the Final Judgment are actually not on the PissedConsumer page that is being removed. Whoever the perpetrators are in this case, their approach was to get Google to de-index the PissedConsumer listing (sub-domain page) for keyword ‘Reputation Defender’.Another company whose web presence used to be defined by negative reviewshas cleaned up its search results using the Contra Costa court system. There's only the smallest indication on the first page of Google search results that something might be off.
The text shown in paragraph g. above is the only text that can be assumed to be referred to in the case – “they lie” – verbatim text in the review (Review ID 203379) actually says “Reputation Defender lies…” based on the context of the case. This is only our assumption, since we did not find the exact text on http://reputation-defender.pissedconsumer.com. The language “Reputation Defender lies…” is actually a part of the review –http://reputation-defender.pissedconsumer.com/reputation-defender-lies-20101019203379.html– that was posted anonymously in 2010.
That link leads to this takedown request and court order. Once again, the targeted URL is not the negative review, but the entire subdomain referring to BlueGreen Resorts (http://bluegreen-resorts.pissedconsumer.com). And, again, the sworn statement from the supposed defamer was obtained in two days, putting this on the fast track for a judgment in favor of the plaintiff Majestic Vacations (which doesn't even exist according to California business records). In a normal case, any forward movement would still be months away. The docket for this case shows a case management conference set for July 13… which has now been nullified by the speedy delivery of a sworn admission of guilt.
In the case of RepDefense Solutions suing on behalf of Reputation Defender, that "company" was "formed" on the same day its lawsuit was filed: February 2nd. Just as attorney Owen Mascott's link to any reputation management firm cannot be determined at this point, nominal company figurehead "Monica Andersen" is a similar dead end.
The two attorneys behind the filings Pissed Consumer uncovered have had their licenses suspended multiple times. What appears to be happening here -- fake companies suing fake defamers -- should result in further discipline, if anyone can tie the two to a reputation management firm… or to the defendants who are always magically located and convinced to sign statements with a couple of days of filing.
These two are apparently helping questionable businesses paper over their dismal reputations with possibly fraudulently-obtained court orders. Unfortunately, courts can be manipulated just like search engine results by those willing to try anything to clean up their online reputation. Putting more eyes on this shady reputation management tactic will hopefully expose the entity behind it.