Freedom of speech reigns in the United States. Unless you are criticizing a person or company with the funds to sue you into infinity. Then you could find yourself on the receiving end of an expensive lawsuit that has no aim other than to shut you up. (Case study: Medifast Inc.’s $270 million lawsuit against me and others; I have won and Medifast is now trying to get out of paying the $300k+ of legal fees they are required to pay.)
Attorney Eric Turkewitz writes about his experience with SLAPP suits in New York. (SLAPP = Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) Although the law protects people who write truthful things and/or state their opinions, the legal process of getting a case dismissed is onerous without anti-SLAPP laws. (Even with anti-SLAPP laws, it can still be expensive. Medifast sued in California, where there is good anti-SLAPP legislation, but it still took over $300k in attorneys fees — not counting the hundreds of thousands of dollars the other defendants spent on their attorneys — and over four years of litigation to get the suit against me dismissed.) Continue reading
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.) Continue reading