Ok, the reasoned low key approach didn’t work. Now it’s time for some more truth.
The ridiculous Sam Sethi dispute has gone on for far too long, and far too many have continued to be sucked into his web of confidence only to be spit back out the other end angry, bitter or worse. The complete history of Sam Sethi is all in detail here. Every factual statement is backed up by evidence, and I’ll stand by those words forever. Anyone who takes the time to read it can’t possibly walk away thinking this is a decent human being.
A key paragraph from that post, reprinting words written by former employee Oliver Starr at the outset of their working relationship and then again at the bitter end:
Oliver went from writing “I have to say, I like Sam. He’s smart, creative, brimming with integrity” in his first blognation post in August to saying “So… that’s a pretty ugly litany of yours up there; lies, more lies, still more lies, exaggerations, evasiveness, manipulation, usury, fraud even – honestly Sam I think there’s a good chance that what you’ve done is actually criminal not just pathological and antisocial – perhaps even psychotic behavior” just four months later.
Fast forward a couple of years and Sethi is blaming every problem in his life, literally, on me. For reporting on it. Most people don’t buy it. But a few bloggers who I have a history with take it hook, line and sinker. They dishonor themselves in their pathetic attempts to take a shot at us, and they hurt our community. They don’t deserve the readerships they’ve accumulated.
Yesterday we reiterated our position that we are not submitting to the jurisdiction of English courts in the lawsuit Sethi brought against us. It doesn’t mean we’re ignoring the issue, though. We explained the factual basis of our story in great detail in letters back to Sethi’s attorney. Again, read those letters and try to come away thinking Sethi is a decent human being. It’s impossible.
Dennis Howlett, who writes an enterprise software blog for CNET, was the first to jump in, writing “The UK’s High Court of Justice has ruled that Michael Arrington and Interserve Inc libeled Sam Sethi” (wrong – we simply didn’t show up to court). He also says “Arrington/Interserve attempted to move the case from Sethi’s home ground to another jurisdiction. The UK courts thought differently” (wrong – the UK courts didn’t decide anything, we simply didn’t show up). The rest of his post is a love letter to Sethi.
Where did this come from? Why is a libel case being written about on an enterprise blog?
Recently Howlett asked me to write about a charity on TechCrunch. I Twittered about it (to hundreds of thousands of people) but never wrote about it on TechCrunch, it just wasn’t relevant. I guess that pissed Howlett off, because a few weeks later he was referring to me as a street hooker on Twitter. When I complained privately on Skype, his response was “I know – I do what I do as a ‘persona’ that people expect of me…gives me ‘ins’ to the ‘money.’”
Independent journalism at its finest. Don’t write about the charity he’s supporting and he goes after you with a stick, then says it’s all a persona to make money, and then writes a ridiculous legal opinion about something he knows nothing about. What a fucking jackass, and no wonder the comments to his post are so negative:
Arrington is hardly the first American to refuse to participate in UK libel proceedings. See, for instance, Rachel Ehrenfeld whose book about terrorist funding was not even sold in the UK. In response, the New York senate passed a law protecting against foreign libel judgments. A *law* was passed specifically to protect the type of response Arrington made. Maybe this case will cause the same thing to happen in the Californian senate, that should be fun.
If you must pontificate about the law, at least get it right! One of the points about cyberspace is that what is said there is not published where the writer happens to be, but wherever that web page can be read. (Actually, there’s nothing terribly novel in this: the same applies to the written word as well, if the expectation is that the same statement will be re-published in another jurisdiction.) So publication in this case took place in many places: in the US, in the UK and probably in most – if not all – of the other jurisdictions in the world. Since the plaintiff in this case was in the UK, that is the proper place for the case to be heard. You never know: this might even cause some people here both to think twice before they write, and to present their views without silly namecalling.
You know nothing about the law of libel in the US and UK, and you know nothing about the concept of jurisdiction, so I suggest you either get a lawyer to explain it to you, or stop talking about what you don’t understand. The UK’s attempts to assert jurisdiction over speech outside the UK and punish it are absurd. They are sovereign, and can do what they want, but no one else is bound to pay them any attention. ANY idiot can get a judgement filed against someone by default in ANY jurisdiction. I can sue you in Illinois for anything and get a default judgment against you because you are not going to be stupid enough to show up. Then IF I knew you were coming to Illinois, I could get your personal possession’s seized when you get into the state to satisfy the judgment. HOWEVER, and this is a big thing, the judgment is totally invalid, because the court never had valid jurisdiction over you. If you challenge it (and presumably win) the whole thing is tossed out, and if it’s egregious enough, I am subject to sanction for abuse of the legal process. That’s the way it works when political entities have ethically and morally acceptable jurisdictional rules. Our constitution prevents Illinois from asserting jurisdiction over you. The UK’s attempts to asset jurisdiction here are morally and ethically invalid; that’s why the US can pass laws prohibiting the enforcement of those judgments here. I think we have learned from our own civil rights history that just because some political entity passes a law doesn’t meant that law is morally or ethically valid. In fact, the law, at least in the US, recognizes an OBLIGATION to refuse to obey laws that violate acceptable norms.
Then comes Tom Foremski, a former Financial Times journalist who now writes one of the most unread blogs in Silicon Valley. I have no idea what I did to piss him off – probably forgot to respond to an email or failed to put him on a panel at one of our events. He writes “Mr Arrington had said some nasty things about Sam Sethi and so Mr Sethi filed a libel suit in the UK, where he lives. Mr Arrington said that since the UK courts had no jurisdiction in the US he wouldn’t defend himself. He lost the suit and also lost all rights to appeal because he didn’t recognize the courts decision.”
He ends with “Mr Arrington should be aware that using his media platform to say nasty things about someone else carries considerable weight of responsibility…Instead of avoiding the UK or Europe as a whole Mr Arrington should just pay the 80,000 pounds ($135,600) and learn from his mistake. The award has been promised to charity. Pay up, and chalk it up, imho.”
Excuse me what? Sethi defrauds dozens of employees and because I write the truth about it I need to pay something to charity? What planet are you from? What the fuck is wrong with you? Did you even read the things this asshole did to people? If I put you on a panel at TechCrunch50 will you then read the factual basis for the post your are writing? Seriously, I promise, I’ll return your emails in the future. All you have to do in return is read the underlying facts, conveniently linked for you in my posts, before writing nonsense.
Other random commenters around the Internet have suggested other just really stupid things as well. Such as, I wouldn’t have defaulted if there wasn’t truth to the claim. This is all nonsense.
If there were problems with my post I wouldn’t have written it in the first place, or I would have taken it down later, or corrected it. I would not let it sit there, my conscience wouldn’t allow it. The posts need to be there so that people searching for this scum sucking excuse for a person know who he is before they make the absurdly bad decision to do business with him. Where were you, Mr. Howlett, or you Mr. Foremski, when Sethi was committing these atrocious acts?
And don’t even think about arguing that I’m doing this for page views or ad dollars. Almost all of these posts have been here on CrunchNotes, which isn’t even linked to from TechCrunch and doesn’t show any ads beyond our back end partners. No money is being generated from these posts. I’m doing what I believe is right.
UK Libel law is a fucking disaster. The U.S. and other countries have had to spend ridiculous amounts of time protecting their citizens from libel tourism in the UK. Laws have been passed making these judgments explicitly unenforceable. There’s a reason for that.
To defend this lawsuit in the UK, just to show up in court and prove this asshole is a liar and worse, would cost us £500,000 or more. Sethi filed the lawsuit for free, doesn’t pay any legal fees (he has a lawyer that took the case on contingency) and if he loses it’s likely we’d only get a small fraction of those fees reimbursed. Defending this lawsuit in the UK would be a monumentally bad business decision. And it would take weeks or months of our core exec team’s time to deal with it. No thanks.
This isn’t a real lawsuit. And he doesn’t have a real lawyer – his attorney’s main claim to fame is winning a £12,000 libel suit against a man who emailed comments to someone else about his neighbors. £11,000 of that was legal fees against the defendant.
I don’t have time for this crap. All Sethi wants is a way to blame all his troubles on someone else. Even a week ago he was pleading to let this all end and for me to remove our previous posts. But like I said, that isn’t going to happen. This guy needs to realize how much he has hurt people. And, someday, apologize to them.
If you are a blogger and you are helping Sethi with misguided support posts just because you have a problem with me, stop it. Think about what you’re doing.
Now please excuse me while I go back to my job.