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Monday, October 3, 2016

A "reputation management" company called Profile Defenders offers to help corporate types fight off the "scourge" of journalism and Legal Schnauzer


Richart Ruddie, CEO of Profile Defenders
(From dispatch.com)
One of the nation's foremost "reputation management" companies is touting its ability to protect business executives from the boogey bears at . . . Legal Schnauzer. I'm not making this up. LS, once called a "ridiculous little blog" by Alabama GOP ass-kisser Jessica Medeiros Garrison, now is such a threat to corporate America that executives are being encouraged to spend big bucks for protection.

Heck, this might be a bigger honor than being named among the top 50 law blogs in North America, a distinction we received back in 2012. To think that cigar-chomping boardroom big shots are so terrified of Legal Schnauzer that they need to hire someone to "manage" their "reputations" . . . well, it makes me think perhaps I should hire a big-game hunter to shoot an executive so I can have him stuffed and mounted above my fireplace (except that I don't have a fireplace at the moment.)

How goofy is all of this? It apparently hasn't occurred to many corporate types that the best way to "manage your reputation" is to not engage in stupid, reckless, corrupt, greedy acts. In other words, if you don't provide the material, a Web site like ours has nothing to write about you. Also, no one seems to have realized that "reputation management" appears to be flagrantly unlawful -- certainly on a civil level, and maybe even criminal.

The company that claims it can protect the world from Legal Schnauzer is called Profile Defenders. It is based in Washington, D.C., and its CEO is a fellow named Richart Ruddie.

Here is what Profile Defenders says about Legal Schnauzer in a post dated March 10, 2016, on the company Web site:

legalschnauzer.blogspot.com Removal

March 10, 2016 By profile_defenders

Tired of getting picked on when you search your name. The website http://legalschnauzer.blogspot.com/ is known to write disparaging remarks about clients that they would prefer keep personal and confidential. We do receive requests from time to time to have remarks removed from the Legal Schnauzer Blog.

Roger Shuler is the author of the blog and it focuses on issues in Alabama, politics, and the recent Ashley Madison hacking scandal

Ah, so this appears to be mostly about Ashley Madison (AM). Never mind that every word I've written about the AM case is true. I've reported that the names of certain executive types appear as paying customers at Ashley Madison -- and their names do, in fact, appear there. See how simple that is?

Then, there is this: Profile Defenders gives my name and then claims I "pick on" people and write "disparaging remarks" that clients "would prefer to keep personal and confidential." Notice there is no claim that my reporting is false or defamatory (because it isn't) -- no mention of journalism or a free press at all. It's just that certain "clients" might be tired of "getting picked on."

What does this tell us?

(1) Richart Ruddie and his colleagues at Profile Defenders apparently have never heard of the First Amendment.

(2) They apparently are unfamiliar with First Amendment law that holds no publication can be removed or censored without a finding at trial, before a jury, that it is false and defamatory. Even then, any resulting permanent injunction must be narrowly tailored to pass constitutional muster.

(3) Ruddie and his company appear to be using my blog and my name in an effort to build revenue. Hey, I want in on some of that action!

Here is what Profile Defenders claims it can do:

With years of experience removing negative listings, we know how to get these unwanted listings removed not just hidden from the search results. Every case and scenario is unique and we commonly help clients who have been defamed on sites like Ripoffreport.com, Pissedconsumer.com, Glassdoor.com, Scambook.com, Thedirty.com, local and national news sites, and many more. . . .

A review or website that says something negative about your business or personal life can cause serious damage. Online, your reputation is everything! Trust, credibility, the value you offer -- these things are essential on the World Wide Web. One negative review or website can destroy the trust you've spent years building and drive away thousands of potential customers. It can even cost you a future job. Any smart individual will Google you or your company before engaging in any business with you.

Anybody can speak negatively about an individual or business. Unfortunately in today's world, you are who Google says you are. What makes it even worse is you cannot stop anybody from Googleing your name BUT WE CAN CONTROL THE RESULTS THEY SEE.

Profile Defenders doesn't explain how it legally can control the results the public sees from Web searches. That's probably because the company can't do it. Perhaps they can use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques to make positive references show up early on search researches, while pushing negative references toward the rear. The company appears to call such tactics "suppression." Others might call it "censorship."

But that isn't all Profile Defenders claims it can do. Near the top of its Web-site home page is this:

The Best Online Reputation Management Company, We Can Completely Remove Webpages.

How can the company unilaterally remove Web pages that have not been found to include false and defamatory content before a jury trial, in a court of law? Answer: They can't. Does this involve the hacking of Web sites? If it does, hacking is illegal, and Ruddie and Co. could find themselves in criminal hot water.

In July of this year, Public Defenders published a post titled "Learn How Defamation Removal Works." The article contains information that is scary, ignorant or both. Consider this:

To determine if harm has been caused by an untrue statement, an investigation must be conducted into the legitimacy of the statement. An untrue statement is different from an opinion or interpretation. The Supreme Court only offers protection for statements related to public concerns, are expressed in a way that makes it hard to determine whether it’s right or wrong, or absolutely can’t be interpreted as a true statement (as in a political or social cartoon). In other words, if the statement could be viewed as being true and has successfully damaged an individual emotionally, financially, or physically, it can be viewed as a defamatory statement. 
The next step is to find out who made the statement, if the user has done so anonymously. This can be challenging, as internet service providers can be reluctant to provide IP addresses and related names. A skilled and experienced attorney familiar with defamation cases can often get a court order, requiring the service provider to provide user information.

A statement that "could be viewed as being true," can be viewed as defamatory? Uhhh . . . I don't think so. And I think somebody needs to go back to law school for a refresher course -- assuming he has ever had a course in the first place.

The post implies that Profile Defenders can determine whether an online post is false and defamatory or not, and based on that, a lawyer can get a preliminary injunction to get the offending material removed. Both implications are false. Only a jury, in a court of law, can determine if a communication is false and defamatory -- and jury trials tend to be expensive, uncertain, laborious ventures.

As for a lawyer seeking a preliminary injunction, such measures have been unlawful "prior restraints" under more than 200 years of First Amendment law.

What about prices? Our research indicates Profile Defenders requires an outlay of at least $2,500, and it can go much higher. An article at tech.co. has this to say about pricing in the online reputation management (ORM) industry:

The typical ORM campaign is around $7,500 per negative URL. Anybody who offers turnkey or cheaper solutions finds that their reputation clients are getting what they paid for and in the end it’s not much.

At $7,500 per negative URL, an ORM campaign can get expensive quickly -- and that does not include possible legal fees the client might incur from hiring Profile Defenders, or a similar site, that violates constitutional and criminal laws. In other words, if Profile Defenders goes after a site that has not published anything about you that has lawfully been determined to be false and defamatory, the site could fight back by suing both Public Defenders -- and you. Defending such a legal action could cause large amounts of dollars to disappear from your wallet. Doesn't sound like much fun, does it?

Profile Defenders does seem to be good at generating publicity for itself. It has been featured in articles at Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and Entrepreneur Magazine

Ruddie, JRR Funding, and Profile Defenders already are facing a lawsuit in Nevada that alleges conspiracy, deceptive trade practices, unjust enrichment, and more. If they screw around with Legal Schnauzer, you can rest assured they will be facing at least one more lawsuit.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a scam! Wish I had thought of it.

Anonymous said...

Are business execs dumb enough to fall for this? I have a pet hamster who wouldn't fall for this.

Anonymous said...

Is JRR Funding the outfit that finances Profile Defenders?

legalschnauzer said...

That's how I read it, @12:00. How any serious investor would consider putting money into this sham outfit . . . well, it's beyond me.

Anonymous said...

Looks like JRR Funding is a shady bunch, too:

http://structuredsettlements.typepad.com/structured_settlements_4r/2015/02/jrr-funding-manager-using-yet-another-alias.html

Anonymous said...

Here is more info about JRR Funding, from Pissed Consumer:


https://jrr-funding.pissedconsumer.com/jrr-funding-pathetic-predatory-behavior-410-363-0967-20150314608243.html

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why this concept is controversial. Let's say you make a post on " Bob Smith," saying "Bob" is corrupt, was involved in shady dealings, etc. Bob denies it. But, your blog is run on a Google platform so it indexes very prominently. Next time someone searches for "Bob" on Google, your post is the first or second thing they see.

From your perspective, that is great. Exposure, readership, etc., all in your favor. Not so great for "Bob." And, of course, "Bob" has not been convicted of anything by a jury either, but now he has a negative post that damages his reputation.

Why is it such a terrible thing for him to hire a tech expert to defend himself from your report.

If you are going to kick "Bob" in the balls, shouldn't he be allowed to defend himself? Seems to me this Profile Defense group has tapped into a real market niche. I don't see anything wrong with it, just like I don't see anything wrong with what you do.

Anonymous said...

Wonder why they picked you out for special mention?

legalschnauzer said...

I don't know, @12:15. Sounds like it's because of my reporting on the Ashley Madison case.

legalschnauzer said...

Bob already has a way to defend himself, @12:13. It's called a lawsuit, via the courts. He also can start his own blog/Web site to show that he is an honorable businessperson, and if he thinks he has evidence that I'm a shyster, he can present that, too. He can present evidence, step by step, to show that my reporting is inaccurate. He could even write me a letter, demanding that I remove the offending article or face legal action. Or he could call me up, politely explain why my reporting is inaccurate, and suggest I remove it. Bob isn't helpless here; there is a lot he can do.

To pay Profile Defenders a batch of money to unilaterally mess with my Web site -- without any finding in a court of law that my reporting is false and defamatory -- is, in my view, stupid on Bob's part. And I also suspect it would be illegal, making Bob doubly stupid.

Anonymous said...

I suggest investors pour money into online porn. It seems less sleazy than Profile Defenders.

Anonymous said...

It just occurred to me that Governor Bentley and Rebekah Mason could be the ideal clients for Profile Defenders. Isn't there some sort of slush fund that can make this match work for them?

It could be just like a CL hookup.

Someone should let them know.

legalschnauzer said...

Good point, @4:10. Maybe Cooper Shattuck could help them with that. Of course, he might be drowning in subpoenas at the moment.

e.a.f. said...

Congrats there Roger! they are wiling to spend that much money to avoid being in your blog! Here is a really cheap and easy way: don't behave badly and you'll not make L.S.'s blog. Exercise sound/good judgement and you're home free. Don't cheat on your partner. Don't be a hypocrite by running as a born again and act like you are partners with some the "devil" or some such thing. Some of the people who make this blog have lost what some of us might call their moral compasses. they lack sound judgement. their disregard for their positions and families really isn't appropriate.

Paul Alan Levy said...

This discussion might be of interest

http://pubcit.typepad.com/clpblog/2016/10/profile-defenders-and-richart-ruddie-the-common-link-between-two-phony-defamation-suits.html

The broader pattern: http://pubcit.typepad.com/clpblog/2016/10/dozens-of-suspicious-court-cases-with-missing-defendants-aim-at-getting-web-pages-taken-down-or-dein.html

Anonymous said...

http://structuredsettlements.typepad.com/structured_settlements_4r/2015/02/richart-ruddie-sued-for-conspiracy-and-deceptive-trade-practices-in-2012.html