Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Shop To Earn Tries to Bully Bloggers with Litigation

Shop To Earn (website: ShopToEarn.net), a multi-level marketing company, apparently does not like anyone questioning their business practices. Recently, two bloggers have received letters from a Shop To Earn attorney threatening legal action against them as a result of their critical examination of the company's business practices. According to a blog post at Everyday Finance:

Unfortunately, my original post from several weeks ago, which had a balanced, yet critical review of the business process, had to be taken down due to the threatening emails sent to me by the legal counsel of Shop To Earn. Until I investigate my rights/risks further, I have removed parts of the post as of July 14, 2008 to comply with the uncompromising, bullying (in my opinion) behavior of this company. Readers had benefited from the important information displayed, but I really don't have the time or energy for a prolonged legal battle to defend my free speech. Fortunately, I have an LLC firewall between this attorney and my personal assets, but I really don't want to spend the time, nor would I like to lose the blog, over this issue unless I have further assurances from my legal inputs, so for now, here's the abridged version that, for any reasonable individual, has nothing that could invite legal action for OPINIONS....

Note: Bold print and italics added by me.

A few days ago, a Shop To Earn attorney apparently attempted to bully acclaimed forensic accountant, author, and blogger Tracy Coenen into removing her blog posts examining the company's business practices by threatening her with litigation, too.

According to a post on her blog, Tracy Coenen received the following letter from Shop To Earn attorney Gerald Nehra:

I represent ShopToEarn and advise them on direct selling legal matters.

You are on notice to CEASE & DESIST your disparaging and potential libelous references to ShopToEarn and the unapproved use of the ShopToEarn logo on your website.

The ShopToEarn program is legally and economically sound, and the company will take all steps necessary to protect its’ rights.

Gerald Nehra

Attroney (sic) for ShopToEarn

Tracy Coenen’s response:

Gerry – Thanks for your note. As free speech is protected under the Constitution of the United States, I will continue to analyze and critique Shop To Earn. I’m sure you’re aware that the law clearly allows me to voice my opinion about the program, even if that opinion differs from yours or is negative about the company. If I’ve cited any incorrect facts about the program and company, I’d be happy to issue a correction if you can point out those errors and provide documentation of the correct facts. I will not amend my opinions about the program, as I still believe the program should be avoided by consumers.

I understand this is not the first time you’ve tried to intimidate a blogger who had a negative opinion about the Stop To Earn program. Your reaction to these negative critiques suggests the company may have something to hide, and I won’t hesitate to have Fraud Discovery Institute start an investigation into the company to confirm what I’ve found about the program.

Besides learning how to spell the word "attorney" correctly (not spelled "attroney" as in his letter to Tracy Coenen quoted above), I think Shop To Earn attorney Gerald Nehra needs a refresher course on Constitutional law as it relates to free speech. He can read the United States Constitution here.

It is unfortunate that too many companies like Shop To Earn are bullying critics with litigation. Critical analysis of companies is an important part of our vibrant capitalist economy and such free speech is protected by our Constitution. If corporate bullying is allowed to continue, our nation risks a downward spiral into crony capitalism.

This blog will be watching Shop To Earn's actions very carefully, too. I agree with Tracy Coenen that Fraud Discovery Institute run by convicted felon turned crime fighter Barry Minkow should take a look at this company.

Written by:

Sam E. Antar (former Crazy Eddie CFO and a convicted felon)