Earlier today, Facebook responded in full to the lawsuit brought by Paul Ceglia, the upstate New York wood-pellet salesman who says Mark Zuckerberg gave him half of the company 7 years ago.Facebook’s response was, in short, a big can of whup-arse.
Last month, when Paul Ceglia filed an amended complaint with dozens of purported emails backing up his story, we thought Facebook might have to dole out a humongous settlement to make Ceglia go away.
Facebook immediately denounced the emails as fake, of course, but the emails didn’t read fake, and Facebook did not offer a compelling explanation for how Facebook knew the emails were fake (at the time, it may not have had one). And based on some of Mark Zuckerberg’s other behaviour as a 19 year old, it seemed conceivable that Ceglia’s claim–as preposterous as it sounded–might actually be plausible. Especially because a major law firm, DLA Piper, had examined Ceglia’s evidence and concluded that Ceglia’s claim was genuine.
Well, after today, we suspect the folks at DLA Piper are wishing they had never heard of Paul Ceglia.
Last fall, after Ceglia filed his original complaint, Facebook did a few things.
First, they hired the investigation firm Kroll to investigate Ceglia and see what else they could dig up on him. Ceglia, of course, had already been charged with fraud in connection with his wood-pellet company, which wasn’t an asset to his case, but, hey, everyone makes mistakes, and maybe Ceglia really had intended to deliver the wood pellets that he took cash deposits on.
Well, Kroll found that Ceglia had once tried to sell a Florida orange grove he didn’t own. Kroll found that Ceglia had sold several plots of land in Florida on eBay that Ceglia represented as “buildable” that weren’t buildable and were later declared worthless. Kroll found that, to jack up the prices of these worthless land sales, Ceglia had engaged in shill-bidding on eBay. Kroll found that Ceglia had forged government documents to aid in the Florida land sales. Kroll found that Ceglia had sold land that he didn’t own in New York State and pretended to sell land that he did own–taking the money and keeping the land.In short, Kroll basically found that Ceglia is a career con-artist.
The second thing Facebook did, after Ceglia filed his amended complaint with the purported emails last month, was hire an investigator to analyse Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard email account (the one through which he had presumably corresponded with Ceglia).
The investigator found approximately 175 emails between Zuckerberg and Ceglia in the relevant period, but none of Ceglia’s purported emails.
The investigator also found emails showing that, far from Ceglia getting screwed by Zuckerberg (which the purported emails show), Zuckerberg got screwed by Ceglia! Specifically, the real emails, which are still resident in Zuckerberg’s Harvard email account, show that Zuckerberg did contract development work for Ceglia and that Ceglia never paid him for it.
Given that Zuckerberg’s Harvard email system did not contain the emails that Ceglia filed in his amended complaint, there’s only one possible way Ceglia’s claim can be genuine: If Mark Zuckerberg selectively deleted every one of the emails cited in the complaint. While this is theoretically possible, it seems highly unlikely–especially in light of the story told by Ceglia’s purported emails.
In those “emails,” a nervous Mark Zuckerberg is trying to back out of his deal with Ceglia by offering to return the $2,000 Ceglia gave him to develop “the face book.”In the real emails, the one the investigator just found in Harvard’s email system, a nervous and grovellingly apologetic Paul Ceglia can’t come up with the $11,000 he owes Mark Zuckerberg for developing Ceglia’s site, which was called StreetFax.
And Facebook didn’t stop there. Facebook also hired a document analyst to examine the “contract” that Ceglia produced last summer. The document expert said the contract is an “amateurish forgery.”
And Facebook hired a linguistic expert to analyse the language used in the real Zuckerberg-Ceglia emails (found in Zuckerberg’s Harvard email system) and compare it to the language used in the Ceglia emails. The expert concluded that Mark Zuckerberg is not likely the author of the “Mark Zuckerberg” emails that Ceglia produced.
And so on…
Basically, Facebook went nuclear on Paul Ceglia, and they’ve blown him and his claim to bits.
Facebook filed all this evidence in support of a motion for “expedited discovery,” in which they will be allowed to seize all of Ceglia’s computers, forensically analyse them, and prove beyond any doubt that Ceglia forged both the “contract” and the “emails.” (At which point, in addition to losing his case, Ceglia could easily be charged with criminal fraud and put away for a long while).
Facebook wants the “expedited discovery” in part so Ceglia can’t drag the case out and force a settlement, which may well have been his and his lawyer’s plan all along.
(Facebook can’t go public with litigation like this hanging out there.)
This afternoon, after Facebook launched its missile, the major law firm that gave credence to Ceglia’s claim and evidence, DLA Piper, released a statement. The statement said the following:
“Mr. Ceglia welcomes the opportunity to expedite discovery in this case and disagrees with the opinions within the filing, which have been made by those who have not examined the actual contract at issue in this case or any of the other relevant evidence.”
Note the wording: “Mr. Ceglia welcomes the opportunity to expedite discovery…” Not DLA Piper. Mr. Ceglia.
That wording suggests one of two things:
Either DLA Piper is already wishing it had never met Ceglia and is distancing itself from him (in preparation for cutting its losses and dropping the case),
DLA Piper is doubling down and planning to file a motion against expedited discovery in an attempt to draw the case out and force a settlement.
Either way, based on the evidence Facebook filed today, we’re done. Unless DLA Piper and Paul Ceglia can provide an extraordinarily compelling explanation for why we should ignore all of what we learned in Facebook’s response, we’re going to draw the same conclusion that Facebook has: Paul Ceglia is “an inveterate scam artist” and this claim is a fraud.
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