Thursday, September 9, 2021

In addition to making "extortionate" demand for $4.5 million, Matrix owner Joe Perkins allegedly warned clients of looming trouble for Jeff Pitts and Canopy


How did Matrix LLC owner Joe Perkins react to news that the firm's CEO, Jeff Pitts, and several other employees were leaving to start a similar firm in Florida? Court documents filed in Duval County, Florida, indicate Perkins did not take the news well at all. In fact, one might say he became a bit unhinged.

Pitts and the new company, Canopy Partners LLC, are co-plaintiffs in a complaint that appears to be a response to a lawsuit Perkins filed in Jefferson County, Alabama. Pitts levels a number of stunning allegations against Perkins, suggesting this could be a no-holds-barred affair once it takes flight in the proper venue, which appears to be Duval County. Let's examine some of the most serious allegations in Pitts' complaint: (The complaint is embedded at the end of this post.)

1. Perkins demands $4.5-million "extortionate" payment for Pitts to avoid the Alabama lawsuit, perhaps with assistance from an apparently well-heeled client known as "Client A

a. From Pitts' complaint: On April 9, 2021, Mr. Perkins’ attorney reached out to Mr. Pitts with a message from Mr. Perkins, whereby Mr. Perkins demanded that Mr. Pitts pay Mr. Perkins the extortionate amount of $4.5 million and sign a non-disclosure, confidentiality, and non-disparagement agreement. Mr. Pitts advised that he did not have $4.5 million, to which the attorney responded at Mr. Perkins’ direction that Mr. Pitts should get the funds from Client A, going so far as to demand that the funds from Client A be routed through a specific multi-step process to a bank account owned and controlled by Mr. Perkins. In addition, Mr. Pitts was told that he would be provided with a packet of information Mr. Perkins wanted Mr. Pitts to share with Client A to convince Client A to provide the $4.5 million.

2. Perkins sends alarming text to Canopy employee

a. From Pitts' complaint: On January 15, 2021, Mr. Perkins texted a Canopy employee, threatening to expose sensitive information and telling him to “protect [yourself] quickly."

3. Perkins warns "Client A"

a. From Pitts' complaint: On January 17, 2021, Mr. Perkins reached out to Client A to falsely claim to Client A that Mr. Pitts may have engaged in illegal actions with respect to the work Mr. Pitts had undertaken on behalf of the client, and that Mr. Pitts had harmed the client.

b. From Pitts' complaint: On February 26, 2021, Mr. Perkins reached out to Client A again to falsely tell the client that the client could not work with Canopy because Mr. Pitts was “under investigation by authorities."

c. From Pitts' complaint: On March 3, 2021, Mr. Perkins reached out to another client to falsely advise the client that Mr. Pitts was under investigation and had done something that was possibly illegal.

4.  Perkins/Matrix issue warning to potential Pitts client and interfere with Canopy records

a. From Pitts' complaint: On January 21, 2021, a Matrix employee, at Mr. Perkins’ direction, reached out to another potential client of Canopy to give a false warning to the client against engaging Canopy because of a purported conflict of interest, even though no such conflict of interest existed. Additionally, on January 26, 2021, Mr. Perkins called this same potential client and offered to partner with this client on business but only if they would do no future business with Canopy or Mr. Pitts.

b. From Pitts' complaint: Beginning on January 31, 2021, Matrix employees, at Mr. Perkins’ direction and over the course of a number of days, accessed the Facebook account of an organization that Canopy assists in managing, removing Canopy’s employees and consultants from accessing the account. Although Canopy’s employees and contractors were able to temporarily regain access through communications with Facebook explaining the improper access, on February 18, 2021, Matrix employees, again at Mr. Perkins’ direction, again improperly accessed the organization’s Facebook account and removed all Canopy-related employees/contractors as well as the other client account managers. Canopy and its client have since been unable to regain access to the account. Mr. Perkins has, on multiple occasions, refused to return control of the account to Canopy and its client.

c. From Pitts' complaint: In addition to usurping control of Canopy’s client’s organization’s Facebook account, a Matrix employee, at Mr. Perkins’ direction, improperly and without authority accessed and changed the password for a GoDaddy account that owned a number of domains belonging to Canopy’s client’s organization. Canopy and its client are unable to access or control the websites associated with those domains and Mr. Perkins has, on multiple occasions, refused to return control of the domains to Canopy and its client.

5.  Perkins sends "greetings" regarding Canopy to major Atlanta firm

a. From Pitts' complaint: On March 19, 2021, a potential client (“Potential Client X”), which is an Atlanta-based company with operations in the Southeast including Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi, met with Mr. Pitts to inform him that Potential Client X wanted to engage Canopy on a project but that Mr. Perkins had warned him and other executives in the company that hiring Mr. Pitts would be like “taking food off his children’s table” and would not be good for the company or those executives to do. Additionally, around this time, there were multiple reports that Mr. Perkins was falsely telling the CEO and other top executives of Potential Client X that Mr. Pitts was “under investigation."

 6. Perkins issues warnings to Canopy contractors

a. From Pitts' complaint: Just prior to March 26, 2021, Mr. Perkins met with a contractor that works with Canopy and potential clients, falsely telling the contractor that “bad things were going to happen to Mr. Pitts,” that Mr. Pitts was under investigation so the contractor should stay away from Mr. Pitts.

b. From Pitts' complaint: On March 26, 2021, Mr. Perkins reached out to another Canopy contractor and falsely told that contractor to ‘stay away from Mr. Pitts’ because ‘bad things were about to happen to him.’ That contractor immediately called Mr. Pitts to tell him what Mr. Perkins had told him and to ask for an explanation.



Anonymous said...

Contacting employees and clients -- or potential clients -- and telling them to stay away from a company doesn't sound like a good idea to me.

Anonymous said...

I think Jeff Pitts is a piece of shit. Joe Perkins is going to win this fight.

legalschnauzer said...

No, I don't think it's a good idea either. That seems to go to tortious interference with business relationships, which is one of the counts in the Pitts/Canopy complaint.

legalschnauzer said...

There are a number of interesting items in the Pitts/Canopy complaint. Here is one:

At all times, Mr. Perkins knew that his statements referenced above about Mr. Pitts being under investigation or involved in illegal activity were false and were likely to cause significant reputational harm to Mr. Pitts and Canopy and potential significant harm to Mr. Pitts’ clients.

legalschnauzer said...

If it's proven that Perkins knew claims of investigations and illegal activity were false, that could be a serious problem.

Perkins has been in the political communications game for a long time, and he seems to be known as a crafty operator, so it's surprising that he would come off as acting with apparent recklessness in this matter.

legalschnauzer said...

Here is another interesting item from the complaint:

On or about April 10-11, 2021, Mr. Perkins began using, and directing Matrix employees to use, Signal Messenger, a covert encryption app, to hide and conceal their communications regarding Mr. Pitts, Canopy, and their clients.

legalschnauzer said...

More from the complaint:

In the weeks following the July 2 letter, Mr. Perkins issued multiple threats of economic and reputational harm to Mr. Pitts and Client A if Mr. Perkins’ terms were not agreed to by August 1, 2021. Specifically, Mr. Perkins threatened to release confidential materials to competitors and the media in order to damage the brands of both Canopy and Client A. Mr. Perkins also threatened to file multiple lawsuits accusing Mr. Pitts and Client A of illegal activities. However, Mr. Perkins always indicated that if all of his demands were met, including a one-time wired cash payment of $4.5 million by August 1, he would refrain from these acts.

legalschnauzer said...

Client A seems to be drawn into this:

At all times Mr. Perkins was demanding the extortionate $4.5 million payment, Mr. Perkins knew Mr. Pitts did not have the ability to pay $4.5 million and made it clear both verbally and in writing that he wanted Mr. Pitts to extort such funds from Client A.

Does Perkins think Client A had something to do with Pitts leaving Matrix to start a new company?

Anonymous said...

This sounds like one of those really nasty divorces that makes you want to cover your eyes.

Anonymous said...

If I read this complaint correctly, it says an attorney for Perkins reached out to Pitts to demand a $4.5-million payment in exchange for refraining from filing a lawsuit in Alabama. That sounds like a possible crime, but it certainly seems to run afoul of ethics rules for lawyers. Where is the Alabama State Bar on this?

legalschnauzer said...

That's a darned good point, @1:04. Your question suggests someone at the Alabama State Bar might have some integrity, but I'm not sure that's the case since Keith Norman retired as executive director, and I'm told the Office of General Counsel has been a sleaze pit for quite some time, essentially controlled by Jeff Sessions and his flunkies.

legalschnauzer said...

The Alabama lawsuit shows that Campbell Partners, specifically attorney Cason Kirby, represents Matrix. The Campbell firm is the same one that represents Balch & Bingham in the Burt Newsome case, and Balch has longstanding ties to Jeff Sessions. Will Sessions ensure that anyone aligned with Balch, including the Campbell firm, gets a free pass from the State Bar? Does that help explain why Perkins and his counsel seem to be acting with impunity?