Yesterday this reporter and this media outlet received a letter from Morgan Drexen titled Morgan Drexen’s Demand to Cease and Desist Illegal Activity.
Ultimately their demand is that this journalist and publication should “remove any and all reference to Morgan Drexen” as a condition “to Morgan Drexen agreeing not to pursue its damage claims against you.”
The irony is that besides articles which include Morgan Drexen, this site has also posted press releases issued by Morgan Drexen. So it appears the goal is not to correct a specific issue but to wipe their name from the face of this media outlet.
Attached to the cover letter was a “draft of the complaint Morgan Drexen has instructed us to file against you and your website if this matter is not resolved to my client’s satisfaction.” The problem is that the lawsuit Morgan Drexen wants to file is full of errors and information that is just factually not correct. It also appears to be an attempt to restrict free speech and to silence reporting and assisting consumers.
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Morgan Drexen states in their letter, “Over the past few months, you and the website you operate, GetOutOfDebt.org have fabricated web postings about Morgan Drexen and have improperly attempted to interfere with its business. While Morgan Drexen has no objection to vigorous competition, the use of false and misleading statements when describing a competitor crosses the line…”
So let’s look at what was posted over the past few months. Here are the postings tagged with Morgan Drexen:
The statement perplexes me. This site and my work is not a competitor of Morgan Drexen. I provide no debt settlement services and get paid no fee for debt settlement referrals. If the arguement is this site has ads on it which may contain links to competitors, I have no hand in the selection of ads that appear on the site, like most media outlets. All of this is addressed openly and transparently in the site terms.
The allegation that this site has fabricated web postings is preposterous and damages this site and this reporter.
In fact on occasion I have attempted to work closely with the public relations department of Morgan Drexen in order to get their position and statements on a number of issues. But that was a very difficult experience.
I wrote about one such encounter with the PR department of Morgan Drexen, here.
Morgan Drexen claims this site is engaging in “misconduct with the intention of causing financial harm to Morgan Drexen.” And while they can believe that, it is utterly ridiculous.
Help This Site Fight Back Against The Threats of Morgan Drexen – Click Here
So here is the heart of there issue. I’ve tried to work with them on it before and in fact had closely participated with a Morgan Drexen attorney behind the scenes and dealt with the situation in what I thought was a very reasonable manner.
Much of this information would have remained secret if it were not for this unsubstantiated attack by Morgan Drexen. In order to state the facts I now need to disclose information about the William-Bob issue.
From the letter yesterday,
I call to your attention one posting that was allegedly made by a Morgan Drexen client identified as William, regarding how to “get out of” his contract. You publicly advised this alleged customer of how to avoid making payments to Morgan Drexen and ultimately recind a valid, enforceable contract. As you know, representatives of Morgan Drexen were able to ascertain the true identity of “William” and learned that he and his wife, [Redacted by me. Interestingly I did not know the wife’s name till Morgan Drexen just told me what it was. Whose disclosing information?], had never made any such posting and had no desire whatsover to end their relationship with Morgan Drexen. You eventually agreed to remove this post, but then reposted the exact same question and answer under the pseudonym “Bob.” Our investigations have led us to believe that similar posts have been made that lack any factual basis.”
So here are the facts of that issue.
This site receives information from the public and questions in order to assist consumers that have financial problems. The questions are posted by members of the public and in accordance with Section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code (47 USC § 230) this site and this reporter are protected under the law.
Section 230 says that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” This federal law preempts any state laws to the contrary: “[n]o cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with this section.”
On August 2, 2010 this site received the question below from someone that identified himself as William.
A new submission (form: “Ask a Question”)
Submitted on: August 2, 2010
By [Redacted] (visitor IP). [I can’t tell you the IP address but it indicates the question came from the Florida.]
—————I Am Here For You. Let Me Help.————
First Name: William
Email Address: [Redacted]
Situation/Background: My husband and I are in credit card debt in the amount of $170,000. We have ad severe medical bills since 1997. My husband had quadruple by-pass and has severe CHF, he is 79 years of age. I have had cancer twice and had to have my right leg amputated due to cancer. I am in a wheelchair and I’m 68 years of age. We just signed up with a company called MorganDrexen out of Anaheim, CA. and I just found out that they have an F rating with the BBB. Can we get out of this contract? They recceived our signed copy on Friday of last week. Please help us in any way you can. We are desparate. Thank you.
Your Question: Can we get out of this contract we signed on July 30th? If so, who do you recommend to us for help? Thank you
On August 3rd this site and this reporter answered the reader question under the title We Are Disabled. How Can I Get Out of My Morgan Drexen Contract? – William. I said:
No worries. Call your bank and change your bank account number to prevent any debits by Morgan Drexen. Then call morgan Drexen and tell them you are canceling your agreement with them, and follow that up by sending Morgan Drexen a certified return receipt requested letter notifying them you have cancelled your contract.
That should do it.
Please update me on your progress by posting updates here in the comments section of your question. I’m very interested in how this works out for you.
Based on the question submitted, the advice given seemed as if it addressed the readers question and solved the problem presented. Morgan Drexen is not asserting that my advice was factually not true based on the question presented.
On August 18, 2010 I received an email from an attorney representing Morgan Drexen saying:
A posting on your Website, was brought to our attention. I have included the link below for your reference. The purpose of this e-mail is to notify you that the information contained in your Website describes one of the Clients represented by our law firm. They have advised that the inquiry that is being attributed to them was not submitted by them to your site. Further, it is misleading in that it does not accurately portray their position. Our Clients specifically are concerned that that their information has been given to your site without their prior knowledge.
No request to terminate any contract with Morgan Drexen has been conveyed to us by our client. In light of the foregoing your site may have been victimized by predatory marketing practices. Morgan Drexen has informed me that it intends to fully investigate this matter and prosecute any individuals or companies that may be engaged in these types of unfair practices. Since your web site has been apparently been used to perpetuate these practices we would appreciate your cooperation. In that regard, would you be so kind as to provide me with further information on this posting.
Upon receipt I let the attorney know that I shared his concerns and had no tolerance for being victimized as well. I also acted swiftly and contrary to assertions by Morgan Drexen that I removed the post, I never did, and they know that because I told them so.
And if Morgn Drexen wants to chase down and prosecute any individual or company involved in this matter who they claim stole their client information and posted it to the web, that’s great. But that person is not this reporter or this publication.
I told their attorney in my August 19 email exactly what I did in response to his communication.
After receipt of your email yesterday I immediately emailed the address provided with the question and stated what was alleged and asked them to confirm their email. As of right now they have not responded but they may have not checked their email or it might have been trapped in a spam filter.
Upon receipt of your email today I have removed the entire first paragraph and changed the name from William to Bob.
The second paragraph is generic enough and Morgan Drexen does currently have an F rating with the BBB so it appears leaving that would not cause you or your clients harm.
Faced with the problem of not being able to positively ascertain who the sender of the email was this solution seems to be a reasonable accommodation of removing identification.
Unfortunately it does not solve who allegedly spammed me.
I would like to get to the bottom of who sent the email if your clients did not but we are left in a bind since I can’t release the identity of the email sender and your can’t identify your clients.
Morgan Drexen stated they were still looking into the matter.
I am uncertain why your clients [the consumer] would want to continue with this matter unless there is another motive. Your clients claim the question regarded their situation but the person in the question was not able to be identified publicly in my posting and the question contained no consumer [full] name or geographic location.
Besides being inquisitive and wanting more information about who posted the question, the consumer has not been harmed in any way except to be concerned who may have known information to submit and ask in an online question. Obviously that was not me. For all we know the person sending in the email is a family member, or friend. Who else would have access to their specifics?
The matter continued and this site received a comment that indicated there was a leak someplace about this matter. I immediately notified the Morgan Drexen attorney.
[From this site to the Morgan Drexen attorney.]
A most interesting turn of events on this issue.
Someone just came into the getoutofdebt.org site and posted the comment below. Apparently you have a leak in your office or with Morgan Drexen. I have not publicly disclosed this matter on the web.
Here is the comment that was just posted which threatens me.
2010/08/29 at 6:10 pm “Please don’t take advice from this Rhodes guy, he is posting fake questions and blaming other debt settlement companies as he provides leads for cambridge counseling. There is a video online of an old couple in Florida who’s information he stole and then posted on the web. He has now changed the name from William to Bill. I suspect someone has caught up to his game he does not deserve your respect… This video is sure to be picked up by the wider media that more couple… Rhodes how low did you go this time, just to give one of your competitors a bad name.”
Can you confirm that your clients participated in this video? I would also like to know the location where this video is posted online.
If you want to help get out in front of this then I’d suggest that you consider writing a statement I can post on this matter and that you’ve never disclosed to me when the clients live or who they are. Otherwise, if this issue escalates on the web I will have no other option but to release my emails on this matter to show how I addressed this issue promptly with you.
The puzzling issue is if the client actually exists based on the original information in the submitted question, how would I have ever known the information of their situation to post since I have no clue who they are? The only people that would have known this would have been Morgan Drexen, you, your office, or friends or family of the clients.
I promptly addressed the issue when you originally brought it to my attention and now I’m asking for the same courtesy in return.
So as you can see this site and this reporter handled the matter is a prompt, professional and prudent way and yet Morgan Drexen threatens to sue this site and wants this publication to “remove any and all reference to Morgan Drexen.”
It is now curious that in the comment above the person said “just to give one of your competitors a bad name,” and the recent letter from Morgan Drexen says “when describing a competitor.” I’m not the one that views them as a competitor. That is their apparent position and the coincidence that it is mentioned in both places is interesting. For all I know, the original question could have been planted by Morgan Drexen and the above comment posted by them in order to create a chain of events intended to lead to punishing and silencing this reporter and publication.
In regards to other reporting, Morgan Drexen has not asserted that any stories written by this site contain factual errors and have not attempted to correct other stories.
A reasonable person might assume Morgan Drexen is attempting to scare, intimidate, and threaten to silence this reporter and this site because they do not like the advice given and would prefer, for a commercial reason, that it did not exist to help consumers. Otherwise, why, despite repeated attempts, would Morgan Drexen not work closely with this site and instead act to bully it into silence?
I guess all that is left to say is, please help this site flight back to prevent it being silenced. Click here to help.