Another Reason Why More Anti-SLAPP Legislation Is Needed

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Michael Tanczyn of Medifast

Medifast General Counsel Michael Tanczyn, Esq. at the deposition of Sam Antar. (click to enlarge)

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.

I am currently on the receiving end of a SLAPP suit, thanks to my good friends at Medifast (NYSE:MED) and their scam-like pyramid-like multi-level marketing division Take Shape For Life (TSFL).

SLAPP = Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation

It goes like this… Someone criticizes your company. You get mad. You decide to use your millions or billions of dollars to shut them up. But more importantly, it shuts up anyone else who would dare to criticize you or your company, lest they should also be on the receiving end of a lawsuit they can’t afford to fight. Continue reading

Medifast is Abusing the Legal System to Punish Critics of Take Shape For Life

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Medifast General Counsel Michael Tanczyn, Esq. at the deposition of Sam Antar. (click to enlarge)

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.

Earlier this year, Medifast (NYSE: MED) filed a $270 million lawsuit against Barry Minkow, me, and several other defendants for what it has alleged are false statements and a conspiracy to damage the stock price of the company. This lawsuit is nothing more than the typical big company suing a critic to shut her up. Medifast has far more resources than any of the defendants, and the company was hoping that by suing us, we’d shut up about the company’s multi-level marketing division Take Shape For Life (TSFL). Continue reading

Medifast Lawsuit: Anti-SLAPP Motions Filed

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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.

Anti-SLAPP motions have been filed in the Medifast lawsuit by me and by my co-defendant, Robert FitzPatrick. My motion can be read in its entirety here, and Fitzpatrick’s can be read here.

SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.  It’s basically when a big company tries to shut up a little guy with expensive litigation. In my opinion, Medifast sued me and others in an attempt to get us to stop publicly analyzing or criticizing the company and it’s multi-level marketing business model. Continue reading

A Comparison of Medifast and Pre-Paid Legal

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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.

This week Barry Minkow and iBusiness Reporting did a comparison of the business models of Pre-Paid Legal Services Inc. (NYSE: PPD) and the Take Shape For Life division of  Medifast Inc. (NYSE:MED).  Pre-Paid Legal is being investigated by the SEC, and Barry wondered how the compensation plans of Pre-Paid and TSFL stacked up. The obvious question is whether Medifast could eventually face the same scrutiny as Pre-Paid Legal.

It seems that the SEC investigation of Pre-Paid Legal has focused on its stock buyback program (this is how executives and insiders get rich) and how the company is marketed. They also asked for data on membership statistics, so this could open the door to evaluating whether the practices of the company are like a Ponzi scheme. Continue reading

Medifast Changes Auditors: Was Barry Minkow Right When He Criticized Former Auditors?

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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.

Last week, Medifast Inc. (NYSE:MED) announced that it changed auditing firms. The company previously used Bagell, Josephs, Levine and Company, and they were criticized for the choice of auditors by Fraud Discovery Institute and Sam Antar. FDI’s criticism was summed up in a press release:

Expert’s letter sites possible stock-touting of Medifast (NYSE:MED) stock by company’s single-officed, New Jersey based, outside auditors through their alleged independent investment entity. Expert also notes that PCAOB cited Medifast auditors for significant deficiencies in three of six audit engagements reviewed by them, or 50% of audits in their sample.

Antar simply said that if Medifast was serious about the quality of its auditors, then it would find new ones. Continue reading

Medifast Lawyers Continue to Lie to the Court

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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.

The Medifast (NYSE:MED) lawsuit against Barry Minkow, Fraud Discovery Institute, me, Robert FitzPatrick, William Lobdell, and others marches on. Yesterday, the Medifast lawyers filed an amended complaint in the case. The passage of time has not made Medifast or its lawyers more honest, however, as the amended complaint repeats factual inaccuracies (those are called lies in my world) and even expands on them.

Grab a cup of coffee and kick up your feet while you read the amended complaint. The document now alleges a civil conspiracy related to Medifast’s Take Shape for Life (TSFL) division, and repeatedly refers to the defendants as co-conspirators. I can’t speak for the other defendants, but I certainly know that I conspired with no one. I simply performed services for a paying client, and I wrote about Medifast on this blog in a continuing effort to advance the discussion of the pitfalls of multi-level marketing. Continue reading

Medifast Lawsuit Update

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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

Medifast Files Lawsuit, Fraud Discovery Institute Reopens Investigation

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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.

On Tuesday, Barry Minkow and the Fraud Discovery Institute issued a press release stating they were ending their investigation of Medifast Inc. (NYSE:MED) in order to focus on other companies.

One day later, Medifast filed a defamation suit in California against Minkow, FDI, Robert Fitzpatrick, William Lobdell, iBusiness Reporting, me, my company Sequence Inc., and an anonymous message board poster. The suit seeks general damages of $270 million, plus other damages. Continue reading

Fraud Discovery Institute Ends Investigation of Medifast Inc.

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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.

In mid-2009, Barry Minkow and Fraud Discovery Institute began investigating Medifast Inc. (NYSE:MED), and published several reports on the company and its business model. The company was compared to Your Travel Biz (YTB), a company that was under fire from the authorities for being an alleged pyramid scheme.

There were questions about Medifast’s auditors,  but most notably, the company was criticized for the fact that its financial growth was due almost completely to the recruitment of new “coaches” into its Take Shape for Life (TSFL) division. A month ago, the most recent report on Medifast’s recruitment business was published by multi-level marketing expert Robert FitzPatrick, and Medifast’s management promptly misled shareholders by claiming these allegations were made by “convicted felon” Barry Minkow. Continue reading

Medifast Continues to Mislead Shareholders

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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.

This week multi-level marketing expert Robert Fitzpatrick released his second report in the last year on Medifast (NYSE: MED) and their Take Shape For Life multi-level marketing division. The report highlights how little money the company’s “health coaches” actually earn from selling the products, and makes it clear that the real money (if there is any) is in recruiting new marks into the scheme.

Following the release of FitzPatrick’s first report last year, Medifast management came out with bizarre statements. The most recent version of their statement was included in a 10-Q filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on November 9, 2009: Continue reading