The Price of Free Speech is $200,000

medifast-lawsuit-check-to-tracy-coenenFree speech is a privilege we enjoy in the United States. But it is anything but free. My personal price for the right to express my opinion about Medifast, Inc. was 5 years of my life and nearly $200,000. (Of course, that doesn’t include the emotional toll that the case took, as Medifast’s malicious pursuit of its meritless case against me was clearly designed to ruin me professionally.)

Case Summary

To summarize Medifast’s bogus case against  the defendants:

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Medifast is Ordered to Pay Fees…. Five Years After Filing a SLAPP Suit

It’s taken more than five years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to dispose of the frivolous and unethical lawsuit Medifast Inc. (aka Take Shape For Life) and their dishonest attorneys filed against Tracy Coenen and Sequence Inc.

You will recall that I won my anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss, and Medifast appealed, ensuring that the suit would drag on for years. In June 2014, the appeals court affirmed my dismissal and told Medifast to suck it. But of course, Medifast STILL wanted to fight… this time about the attorneys’ fees they were legally obligated to reimburse.

Yesterday the court ordered Medifast to pay nearly $200,000 and never darken my door again:

In accordance with those orders and decisions, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that:

(1) This action is dismissed as to defendants TRACY COENEN and SEQUENCE, INC., and judgment is hereby entered in their favor;
(2) Plaintiffs BRADLEY MACDONALD and MEDIFAST, INC. shall take nothing by way of their First Amended Complaint against defendants TRACY COENEN and SEQUENCE, Inc.; and
(3) Judgment is entered in favor of defendants TRACY COENEN and SEQUENCE, INC., and against plaintiffs BRADLEY MACDONALD and MEDIFAST, INC., jointly and severally, in the amounts of $190,520.50 for attorney’s fees, $7,502.00 for nontaxable costs related to the proceedings in the District Court, and $855.00 for costs in the Ninth Circuit (for a total of $198,877.50).

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that plaintiffs, jointly and severally, shall be obligated to pay defendants TRACY COENEN and SEQUENCE, INC. the aforesaid sums, each with interest accruing at the legal rate from the date of entry of judgment until paid in full.

IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: April 20, 2015

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Companies That Sue Critics Have Something to Hide

I am a firm believer that companies that sue critics (whether the critics are journalists, customers, forensic accountants, or otherwise) have something to hide.

This was the case with Medifast Inc., a multi-level marketing company that sued me (and others) for $270 million nearly five years ago. (They suffered a resounding loss against me, lost again on appeal, and now must pay my substantial attorneys fees… which of course they are claiming are inflated…. disregarding the fact that huge fees are a result of the need to defend against their shady litigation tactics.) Medifast didn’t like the fact that I expressed my opinion of its business model and business practices.

Other companies have tried such tactics:

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Medifast Cease and Desist Order and Civil Penalty

On September 18, 2013 a cease and desist order was filed pursuant to the Security and Exchange Commission’s investigation of Medifast Inc. (Medifast’s business includes Take Shape for Life, or TSFL, which is its multi-level marketing division.) Medifast materially overstated income and understated expenses from 2006 through 2009, according to the SEC. This has resulted in the cease and desist order, and has Medifast paying a $200,000 penalty to the government.

You may recall that Medifast sued several people (including me) in 2010 for criticizing their business model and business practices.

One of the issues in the lawsuit was the criticism of Medifast’s auditors, Bagell, Josephs, Levine, and Company.The criticism of the auditors was grounded in a 2008 PCAOB report on an inspection of six of BJL’s audits, which turned up audit deficiencies in three of them. In 2010 Medifast switched auditors.

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Medifast Lawsuit Update

UPDATE: On February 17, 2010, Medifast Inc. filed suit in US District Court, Southern District of California, alleging defamation, violation of California Corporations Code, and unfair business practices. On March 29, 2011, Judge Janis Sammartino dismissed all of Medifast’s claims against me in her ruling on my anti-SLAPP motion.

A few weeks ago, Medifast Inc. (NYSE:MED) sued Barry Minkow, his Fraud Discovery Institute, me, my corporation, William Lobdell (a journalist working with Barry), Robert FitzPatrick (an expert witness on mutli-level marketing and pyramid schemes), and an anonymous message board poster (good luck with that).

Medifast sued us for daring to say that their Take Shape For Life multi-level marketing division is a typical recruiting scheme and looks like a pyramid scheme. FitzPatrick has done years of research on MLMs, in large part using the numbers publicly released by companies to demonstrate how the vast majority of participants lose money. He wrote two formal reports on Medifast and their numbers – – he basically showed that the company’s financial gains in the last year or two have come almost solely from their multi-level marketing division. (The first report is here, and the second report is here.)

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