A Day In Our Lives At TechCrunch
2 Comments
by Mike on January 6, 2010

Sometimes we get into it a little bit on our Yammer account at TechCrunch. It’s usually me and MG, and every once in a while I like to post the exchanges. See this one for example. Tonights fabulous discussion – embargoes and the frustration they cause.

Screen shot 2010-01-06 at 1.03.48 AM

Choosing between Buddy and a buddy.
9 Comments
by Mike on November 15, 2009

A couple of weeks ago Loren Feldmen put on the Audience Conference in New York. We supported the conferece, first announcing it and then writing more posts and tweets to help with ticket sales. I also committed to speaking at the event. About a week before the event I was asked if I could foster care for a very sick dog named Buddy. Buddy is a two year old yellow lab who was having some trouble finding a new owner because of hip dysplasia affecting his back legs and two deformed elbows messing up his front legs. He likely needs four leg surgery to be able to walk at all later in life, which may cost $30,000 or more. And the elbow surgery is tricky and may actually make things worse.

Buddy was living in a kennel at a vet’s office when I picked him up. He now lives with me and my chocolate lab Laguna and with the help of two pain killer medications he seems happy enough. He just can’t move very well, and need help getting on/off couches and beds. Buddy also had a nasty ear infection when I got him, but that’s all cleared up now.

The timing wasn’t good because I was supposed to fly to New York and attend the conference. But I couldn’t find anyone to take care of Buddy for the trip on short notice. So I couldn’t attend the event.

I tried to arrange for someone to take him right up until the day before the event, then gave up and called organizer Loren Feldman to tell him I couldn’t attend.

He didn’t take it very well, and kept saying sarcastically that he understands, my dog is sick and so I can’t come. The whole conversation was odd given that we’ve been friends for years and I went out of my way to promote his event. Now, I realize, he was recording his side of the conversation and has posted it, making me look rather dumb.

This is just what Loren does, and I can’t fault him for it. It was the eve of his first big event and he was nervous about how it would turn out. All he probably heard me say was “I don’t care about your event, I’m blowing it off.” But that isn’ what I said, I really did want to attend to support a friend. But I also had a small creature depending on me and I couldn’t leave him without someone responsible to take care of him.

The conference was clearly a success, and I’m glad we were able to promote it on TechCrunch, Twitter and Facebook, and help hook him up with at least one sponsor. Good luck to Loren in the future.

But there is fallout from this. This isn’t the first time Loren has made me look dumb to create content on his site. I really thought of him as a good friend, someone who may be a friend for the rest of my life. That’s why when he comes to California I open my house to him and give him my second car to drive. But friends don’t take advantage of others just to give themselves a cool blog post. At this point, I’m forced to protect myself around Loren and not give him any further fodder for his blog.

What I realize out of all of this is simple – Loren values my friendship less than he values the opportunity to post a short piece of content making me look dumb.

If you live in the bay area and want to adopt a lab, this lab rescue organization is amazing. They take these dogs in when abandoned by owners and care for them and find good homes. There are always a lot more dogs than homes, though. So before you go to a breeder or a pet store, think about taking a rescue dog instead. You’ll be taking a very loving dog out of a kennel, and I guarantee you’ll get back more than you give.

Foo Camp 2009
5 Comments
by Mike on August 31, 2009

Just back from Foo Camp 2009. You don’t see a ton of stuff on the Internet about Foo because it’s mostly off record.

Here are my notes From Foo Camp 2008. This year I decided to do something a little different and created an Animoto show with their new video product. Cool stuff.

Paul Carr: An open letter to Sam Sethi, on the occasion of him completely losing his mind
15 Comments
by Mike on August 5, 2009

If you’ve been following the whole Sam Sethi/TechCrunch lawsuit debacle (see here and here and here), you’ll want to read this post by Paul Carr as well, where he prints emails from Sethi sent on record.

I’m also reprinting below, these things have a tendency to disappear when lawsuits strike:

An open letter to Sam Sethi, on the occasion of him completely losing his mind
August 5th, 2009

Note: this post was originally written for – and subsequently spiked by – the Telegraph. This followed attempts by Sam Sethi to harass my editor both by email and phone.

Dear Sam,

For the past few weeks, you have been embroiled in a one-sided libel suit against Michael Arrington, the Silicon Valley-based editor of TechCrunch – a publication for which, in the interests of disclosure, I recently began writing a weekly column.

In the suit, you claim that Arrington libelled you by publishing claims about your personal and professional behaviour during the time you were founding Blognation, your now defunct technology blog network.

The facts of the case have already been pretty well documented across the Internet (not least by me), so I won’t rehash them here, save to say that Arrington and TechCrunch refused to recognise the jurisdiction of the UK courts in the case. And that in the absence of any representation from the defendant, on 30th July (last Thursday) the court entered a default judgement in your favour, with damages and costs to be awarded later.

More than a month ago, while I was still happily writing for the Guardian and had no inkling that I’d end up moving to TechCrunch, you and I spoke at length about the case. Based on those conversations, I wrote a column arguing that you weren’t a malicious person but were simply a damaged man who had run out of other options for restoring his tattered reputation. I quoted you admitting that you had lied to your staff about Blognation’s financial situation and also admitting that TechCrunch’s publication of leaked documents had not in fact ’scuppered’ (your word) the company’s chances of securing investment, despite your previous claims to the contrary. And yet I tried to present both sides in a fair light, given how polarising the fight had become.

What I haven’t revealed publicly until now is that shortly after the column was published, you sent me an email, titled ‘Olive Branch strategy – help/advise [sic] gratefully accepted’. In it you said that you wanted nothing more than to avoid legal action, and asked for my advice on how to do that. I’m not going to quote from the email here as I consider the correspondence private.

In my lengthy reply (which again I won’t publish, but you are very welcome to) I suggested you write a post apologising to all the people you hurt while setting up Blognation and admitting your mistakes without qualification. I was pretty sure, I said, that Michael would gladly publish the mea culpa on TechCrunch, maybe even in place of the article which triggered your law suit. Subsequent conversations with Michael confirmed that he would indeed have been amenable to this kind of solution.

In other words, you could have fixed this whole sorry mess without litigation and moved on.

But you didn’t. Instead, for reasons known only to you, you powered on with your law suit, resulting in last Thursday’s non-judgement judgement. A judgement that you and I both know has no practical effect except to possibly make it difficult for Michael Arrington to travel to the UK in future. Indeed, he has already cancelled a scheduled appearance at the upcoming FOWA conference in London. I trust you’re pleased with yourself for annoying hundreds of conference-goers. Well done you.

Here’s the thing Sam: until very recently I considered you a friend. I truly wanted to help you find a solution to this which would allow you to move on with your life. I was happy to act as a mediator between you and Arrington (who is also a friend) and, unlike most people, I didn’t take sides publicly. But today I’m writing this open letter to tell you that my impartiality ends here, for the simple reason that your behavior post-judgement has been utterly fucking appalling.

Since the default judgement was entered, you have been claiming, both personally and through surrogates, that you “won” your libel action and are therefore completely vindicated. This is complete nonsense. The court in no way found that TechCrunch’s statements about you were false, but simply that no-one from the company turned up to defend them. Or to put it another way, you “won” the case in the same way that I won my last fight against Mike Tyson. I invited him to take part, but he refused. Victory is mine!

On Monday, I sent you an email asking you to summarise the judgement for me, as I wanted to understand how you saw it as a victory. Rather than answering my question, you responded by going back into negotiation mode, saying that you “would willingly ask my lawyer to waiver the judgment and all costs/damages in exchange for the name of [the person who leaked documents about Blognation to TechCrunch] as well as the crunchnote articles [that formed the basis of the suit] being removed.”

Your desire to throw away your ‘victory’ having gone through so much hassle to achieve it seemed more than a little odd, particularly given your insistence that you wanted the damages in order to pay back the money you owe to former Blognation staffers. But I replied that while I was pretty sure Michael would never give up a source, he might still be open to the offer that had been on the table since the start. I asked for your permission to put the suggestion to him, and you gladly gave it.

However, minutes later, before Arrington had a chance to reply, another email from you plopped into my inbox. I’ve thought long and hard before deciding whether to publish it – and our other correspondence – here, but you emailed me fully aware that I was covering the story and that we had previously agreed our conversations and emails were on the record unless you specified otherwise. Also, as far as I’m concerned, it’s important that the few people still defending you are aware of the insane statements you’re making to journalists behind the scenes.

The email read…

“You should also make Mike aware. Just heard from my lawyer the e-border order has been extended to cover France, Germany and Spain. I have also given him the name of all techcruch [sic] editors including [CEO] heather [Harde] and [contributor and former Blognation employee] robin [Wauters] as the judgement was also against techcrunch and not just arrington. I did not add your name as I did not expect you to stay with tc that long given your past career.”

In other words, you had instructed your lawyer to make it difficult for any TechCrunch employee to travel to the EU, not just Michael Arrington. This, I’m afraid is the precise point at where our friendship reached its end. As I said to you in my reply…

“You’ve put people [who] had nothing to do with this, including friends of mine, on a watch list? You know what – add me to the list too. Jesus Sam. That’s disgusting.”

Moments later came your reply…

“I was asked to name the people from tc by the court. If you think I am wrong will get it removed tomorow. I am not tying [sic] to be a cunt on this but you have to understand arrington made my life hell for two years and I am angry and arrington is making it worse by choosing to ignore the fundamental issue. He set out to destroy blognation and me and is not prepared to admit this. Ok will remove the rest of the stuff but heather is true CEO and on the list.”

Mindblowing. You were admitting that, driven by anger and a thirst for revenge, you had decided to punish every single member of the TechCrunch staff, including several friends of mine. But now, thanks to my email, you had suddenly changed your mind. I was still trying to decide how – or if – to reply when yet another email arrived – this one entitled ’so fucking what?’

I think it needs to be reprinted here in its entirety….

“You know what Paul fuck you and your fawned [sic] mediation, your a great guy but you write me up as the broken man and make up bollocks about me calling Arrington a lizard. [a joke I made in my Guardian column] Lets call a spade a spade. Arrington is getting [London entrepreneur Robert] loch, gabe [Rivera from Techmeme] , [puppet blogger] 1938media and [Jason] calacanis to attack me right now [I've spoken to at least two of those people and neither had heard from Arrington when they decided to criticise Sam online]. I know how he works. Bollocks to Arrington and I am sorry if others get hurt but did Arrington care what happened to 10 editors on blognation when he published my termsheet knowing it would kill the funding. Did he fuck!

Why should I apolgise [sic] to him or make life easy now for techcrunch. Fuck it I’ll let my lawyer do his job and see what happens next. If that hurts TechCrunch and it’s editors then so be it. I don’t give a shit anymore about playing nice and keeping a stiff upper lip. He lost for whatever reason justice, stupidity or arrogance you choose or all of the above.

Arrington is a smart businessman I actually admire but bollocks will I roll over and kiss his arse and take full responsibilty [sic] for what happened. He threatened me and deliberatly [sic] set out to kill blognation whilst libelling me. It’s pay backtime [sic] and if some of your friends get caught in the crossfire then that is sad but not fault Arrington has the power to make this all go away but he won’t.

Thanks in advance

Sam”

I was stunned. I mean, seriously Sam, what kind of person sends this kind of mail to a journalist? The answer, you claimed the following morning, was a drunk person…

“Morning Paul

Big apologies for last night diatribe of emails. Was a lot drunk and letting of steam based on frustration. I’m sure you have never been drunk and emailed people and regretted it in the morning. Was trying to windup Arrington and simply wound you up instead. Sorry. The whole list thing is not true was just pissed off and took it too far.

Sam”

I have indeed done some amazingly stupid things while drunk – many of which I’ve written about in columns and blog posts. But what I haven’t done is threatened to put innocent people on an imaginary travel watchlist or admitted to a journalist that I’m only driven by a lunatic lust for revenge. That’s not drunken behaviour – that’s at best pathetically childish lying, and at worst a sign of mental illness.

Not so very long ago, I found myself in a similar position to you: through my own actions and unprofessional behaviour I nearly destroyed a business and hurt a lot of people in the process. The difference between you and me is that, after I finally fell to earth with a bump, I didn’t sue any of my critics or try to hurt those around them who had done nothing wrong. Instead, after a brief period of craziness, I pulled myself together and wrote a confessional book outlining my (many) failures. Then I left the country for three months to clear my head and begin addressing the issues which had made me such a liability. More than a year has passed since then and in that time I’ve made decent progress on becoming a better person, but I still have a way to go.

Your own journey needs to start here Sam, and I truly hope this public calling-out from someone who at least semi-supported you in the past will help you to realise that. To be honest, it’s possible that you’re already too late to undo all the damage you’ve caused to others, and to your reputation, but it’s never too late to stop making it worse.

So please, I beg you, learn from my mistakes and stop with the pseudo-bipolar emails and the lies. Stop with the threats – real and imaginary – against innocent people. Stop, stop, stop it all. Admit how many people you’ve hurt and look deep into your soul to decide whether you really want to let the meaningless judgement against TechCrunch and Michael Arrington stand. And then, once you’ve done that, turn off your computer and get away from the Internet for a while.

A long while.

Perhaps travel; or get a job somewhere where no-one knows your reputation; or maybe even write a confessional book (it worked for me). Hell, farm llamas for all I care – just please stop lying and punishing others for the many, many mistakes you’ve made. If you can do that, and repair some of the damage you’ve done, then I hope one day I can once again consider you a friend.

Until then, we’re done. From now on, I’m on Team TechCrunch.

Sincerely,

Paul

Enterprise Hacks Opining On The Law, And Other Blogging Tragedies
20 Comments
by Mike on August 4, 2009

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.

Update On Sam Sethi Litigation: We Decline To Participate
61 Comments
by Mike on August 3, 2009

Update to our June post on the…absurd…Sam Sethi litigation. Our lawyers sent a letter letting them know that we have no intention of submitting the the jurisdiction of the UK courts, although we’d be happy to litigate his claims here in California. Sethi obtained a default judgment on July 30 and is now messaging people “fyi won my libel case against arrington last thurs. News to break today thought I would tell you first. pls keep mum for now.”

By “won” I guess he means we didn’t show up, as we previously stated, and so the court had no choice but to give him a default judgment. It’s important to reiterate that the courts didn’t determine anything other than the fact that we didn’t show up.

I had a long talk with a number of UK legal experts about whether we should defend the case in the UK even though we aren’t subject to UK jurisdiction. They were fairly confident we’d actually win…but that the total legal costs could exceed £500,000. That’s just not an interesting proposition for us. Meanwhile, I’ve had to cancel my London FOWA speaking engagement, and certainly won’t be visiting that country any time soon. Which is a shame since I have so many friends there.

What’s really the biggest shame is that just a couple of weeks ago Sethi was reaching out to friends of mine asking to figure out how to get out of this mess without destroying his reputation further. My response – the same thing I told him in February – write a post apologizing to the employees he lied to and cheated, and take the blame like a real adult. My advice was that the Internet tends to forgive everything over time, particularly to those who ask for it. But Sethi continues to choose his own path, and insist he did nothing wrong. It’s just a very sad situation. Someday I hope he finds peace with himself and all the people he has hurt.

Letters below:

July 22, 2009

VIA EMAIL AND FIRST CLASS MAIL
[redacted]
[redacted]
London
United Kingdom WC2R 1AT

Re: TechCrunch: Sam Sethi

Dear Mr. [redacted]
:
As you know, this firm represents TechCrunch and Michael Arrington in the libel claim filed by your client, Sam Sethi, in the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Sanjiv Sethi v. Michael Arrington, et al., No. MQ09 X02558. The purpose of this letter is to inform you that TechCrunch and Mr. Arrington will not, as is their right, submit to the jurisdiction of the English courts in this matter. As we have previously informed you in our letters of March 18 and May 17, 2009, TechCrunch is not susceptible to the jurisdiction of the English courts and the proper forum for your client’s claims would be the State of California, which is the location where the words were both written and published in accordance with the prevailing local laws and standards. As a result, any vindication that your client seeks should properly be sought in the courts of the appropriate California jurisdiction. Accordingly, defendants will not file an Acknowledgment of Service in the High Court of Justice. As we have previously informed you, any judgment that your client may obtain in this matter will be unenforceable in the United States.

Sincerely,

Sam Sethi: The Lawsuit
29 Comments
by Mike on June 30, 2009

Many of you know all about Sam Sethi, the former TechCrunch writer who left after a disagreement and then went on to create BlogNation. Two days ago Sethi filed a lawsuit against us for libel and other issues. As we always do, we’re posting the litigation threats and will continue to fight the litigation publicly. See our previous posts involving YouTube, Marvel, Rivals, Mediascrape EarthComber and Richard Figueroa.

I don’t need to go into much additional background here. My post from late 2007 gives the complete history of this guy and what he has done. Our response letter, posted below, goes into a lot more detail to back up statements we’ve made.

There are also recent developments not covered in the old posts or these letters below. First, Sethi has been sued by former employee Oliver Starr for unpaid wages, and that case is ongoing. Second, Sethi has admitted that in November 2006 he was barred from being a director or manager of of any company for eight years following the order. He was subject to criminal prosecution and would be personally responsible for debts of a company if he contravened the order. Sethi now says he had the order overturned, which may or may not be true. We’re trying to track down the facts that led to the order – whatever they are, they can’t be pretty.

Needless to say, we think these claims have no merit, otherwise we would not have written the posts in the first place, or would have retracted.

The letter exchange is below. Updates coming soon.

Initial Threat

Letter Before Action
Private & Confidential (Not For Publication)

Dear Mr. Arrington,

Our client: Mr. Sam Sethi
Re: Proposed Libel Action v Yourself & TechCrunch

We act for Mr. Sam Sethi in relation to a series of libelous postings in your TechCrunch site containing numerous highly damaging allegations, the most serious of which, are that our client is a criminal, namely that he is a fraudster, and has threatened to kill Mr. Lee Wilkins, a former business associate. Your links to Oliver Starr’s blog “StarTrek” also makes you jointly responsible for the allegations that our client was directly responsible for the onset of Marc Orchant’s heart attack resulting in his death on 9th December 2007.

The above therefore are extremely serious libels.

You have also published other very hurtful allegations against our client and we reserve our right to sue in respect of them unless you make prompt amends to apologise, remove, and offer appropriate damages (all of which will be paid over to a suitable third party such as a charity and/or the Marc Orchant fund and/or other unpaid editors at Blognation), and also pay our client’s legal costs. As you can see our client seeks no personal gain from this claim.

The purpose of this letter is therefore to give you the opportunity of resolving our client’s claim against you without the necessity of court proceedings. However please be under no illusion that our instructions are clearly to issue legal proceedings should you ignore this letter, or fail to co-operate by providing the remedies sought towards full vindication of our client’s reputation.

You have in essence mounted a serious, malicious and sustained campaign of character assassination against our client. This situation can no longer continue. Unless there is prompt resolution we shall issue a claim in libel, within the jurisdiction of the High Court of England and Wales, at the Royal Courts of Justice (in London, UK), limited to the damage (which is immense) that you have caused, to our client!s reputation,
within this jurisdiction.

Your latest missive was on 14th December 2008 in TechCrunch (www.techcrunch.com) entitled: “The Notorious Sam Sethi Launches His Latest Venture, Twitblogs”. In this posting you have said of our client that “some of his former writers have accused him of fraud and other crimes”. This meaning of this is self evident ie that our client is, or at least is suspected, of being a fraudster and guilty of other crimes. This is an indefensible
accusation which is wholly untrue and on our reading, of the background to this case, it has been published by you purely out of ill-will following a “falling out” between you and our client over his refusal to bow to editorial interference by you (leading to our client being forced to leave as UK Editor for TechCrunch UK) over an article (and the subsequent exchange with Loic Le Meur) that he wrote about the Le Web 3 conference in Paris in
December 2006. It appears that you subsequently took great umbrage at our client setting up a competitor site at www.blognation.com, so much so, that you scuppered it last chance of success (ie funding) by posting a confidential (and stolen) termsheet from its VC funders on your TechCrunch site on 7th December 2007 entitled “Blognation May Rise From The Ashes”. We reserve our right to sue for damages resulting from your use of this stolen material which you must have known would seriously jeopardize (and infact did do so) the £250,000 funding that had been secured and would have been paid had you not posted the stolen termsheet.

The first time that you published the allegation that our client had “had threatened to kill” Lee Wilkins (his former business associate) was in your post, again in TechCrunch, on 5th November 2007, entitled: “My Kinda, Blog Network For Eastern Europe, Launches Amid Serious Drama”. You mischievously took a heated “off the cuff” colloquial expression, from a confidential email, and dressed it up to appear as it were a serious and
criminally culpable threat to kill. This was a deliberate distortion and reckless manipulation by you, of any common sense interpretation, of the context in which our client used the words “fucking rip your head off ”. It was also highly hypocritical of your since you have on other occasions, warned and lectured contributing writers, not to exaggerate the significance of, or over-react to a degree of profanity, in the use of heated exchanges in the “instant” medium of blogging and the internet.

Your next “attack” on our client, again on TechCrunch, came on 5th December 2007 in a piece entitled: “Blognation Meltdown: Writers Never Paid, Promises Not Kept”. Here you recited the dispute and grievance aired by Oliver Starr (by copying his post verbatim) which, in summary, was saying that our client was involved in “…usury, fraud even…a good chance that what you!ve [referring our client] done is actually criminal not just pathological and antisocial – perhaps even psychotic behaviour”. Mr Starr, as you will know, at this time was (and still is) embroiled in a bitter civil dispute over non-payment and funding issues relating to Blognation. However, at no time was this a criminal matter, and it was defamatory of you to adopt, as truth, the scurrilous accusations of criminality alleged by Mr Starr. It may be that Mr Starr had his own axe to grind for writing in such a hostile manner following the tragic death of, his friend, Marc Orchant a few days earlier – however that did not provide you, as a “serious player” in this industry, to broadcast and launch, the same attack on your “serious” site. It is our view that you posted the “open letter to Sam Sethi” within TechCrunch to stir up ill-feeling towards our client.

Then, as if to thrust the blade deeper into our client!s reputation you made a further posting on 14th December 2007 entitled: “The Fact And Fiction Of Sam Sethi”. In this post you purported to paint a supposedly accurate scenario of events (a “set the record straight” type of column), but in reality, you continued along the same lines as before ie repeating and adopting the scandalous accusations against our client the most serious of which were that our client was predisposed to making threats of violence and making others feel threatened by him and being thoroughly deceitful. You said:

But Sam made some very dumb decisions in the early days of Blognation…..prompting Sam to lose his cool and threaten to kill him [ie Lee Wilkins]…..It was clear to me that, as despicable as Sam’s actions were, I was too close to the situation to write about it. I also felt vaguely threatened by him…….Sam also threatened a number of the editors he brought on. Many of them came to me with emails and skype messages showing the threats. Sam always just said they were fired employees with an axe to grind. It was clearly bullshit….

When Lee Wilkins, the original founder of Blognation, started a new blog network to compete with Blognation, I felt that it was time to take the gloves off. In my post announcing MyKinda, I finally posted the death threat from earlier in the year….

But then Marc Orchant had a massive heart attack. And the reason he had a heart attack may have been because he was working for Sam…..He [Oliver Starr] decided to destroy Sam and Blognation by attacking him publicly.

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.

Other editors then jumped on board and the floodgates were opened. It was clear that Blognation had never received funding, had never paid anyone for any work, and did not have a workable business model at all. If you care to read it all, see Oliver Starr’s and Debi Jones’ blogs…clear pattern is that Sam would say anything on the phone or skype – apologize, lie, etc. but then not follow up with any promises he made. The mountain of recorded evidence against him is staggering, from bank fraud to recorded conversations. Again, it’s all chronicled on Oliver and Debi’s blogs [links
given].

Sam claims that my posting of that term sheet killed the financing, and blognation. That’s just not true. What is much more likely is that the term sheet was a fake created by Sam, or the fund did due diligence on the financials and realized you can’t start a blog network with no revenue…..

It is hard for people not directly involved with Sam to understand the extent to which he will lie and manipulate to achieve his goals… people just don’t understand outright fabrication and so they often get sucked in to believing that, at worst, someone is just exaggerating a little. I can’t tell you the number of people who came up to me at the Le Web conference this week in Paris to tell me they’d been cheated, duped, or otherwise hurt by Sam. Many of these people attacked me last year when Sam left TechCrunch. Every single one of them apologized to me and said that they now
know the truth about this guy. Some of these people called themselves Sam’s friend a year ago. Now, they just think he’s a jerk.

This is, hopefully, the last time I ever write about Sam Sethi. I’m sure that he’ll take some time off and then start his bullshit again.

Blogging is supposed to be about transparent honesty and conversation. As the community grows it is clear that people like Sam can use and abuse it to achieve their own goals. They can lie repeatedly, get caught, and continue to spin and spin and spin and will at the end have at least a few people who still naively support them.

In his final post, Sam forgets to thank his editors..or express any regret for lying to them during the entire process… I hope he expresses regret for the death of Marc Orchant…And it will help Sam understand just how despicable his actions were.

Without doubt these are very serious accusations attacking our client in his all aspects of his life from personal, to social and to professional. Quite frankly, we have rarely come across a more sustained campaign (at least not in a publication that seeks to command respect) of character assassination as that which appears to have been orchestrated by you from 7th December 2007 onwards (although, as we have said, this appears to have been motivated out of ill-will caused over editorial disagreement between you and our client in December 2006). On any interpretation of the reading of your posts, threads, and links, you have painted our client as a vile, dishonest, and thoroughly disreputable and despicable criminal.

It is clear to us that you do not have a scintilla of evidence that our client is a fraudster of any other kind of criminal, let alone the charge that he would make, even remotely, a serious threat to kill Lee Wilkins or the other Editors (not named) whom you allege he has threatened (by implication) to kill.

The remedies we seek are as follows:

a. That you immediately remove, in all post on TechCrunch (including links and tags) any reference to our client being a fraudster; a criminal! or of having made threats to kill; or being in any responsible for the onset of Marc Orchant!s heart attack and tragic untimely death.

b. That you open a new post, in TechCrunch, headed “Apology to Sam Sethi”, with the precise working to be agreed with us in advance, but setting out a full retraction and apology of the allegations cited above.

c. That you provide a written undertaking not to repeat the same or similar libels again.

d. That you make an offer of damages sufficient to reflect the gravity of the allegations made – all damages to be paid over to a charity and/or an alternative such as the March Orchant!s memorial fund, and/or towards fees of those unpaid editors at Blognation who had remained faithful to the end.

e. That you pay our client!s legal costs which, should this matter proceed to trial, will seriously escalate from what they are now, since we will be in due course representing our client on a “no win no fee” basis.

We urge you to take urgent legal advice, albeit that you are an US Attorney yourself, since, as we are sure you will appreciate, this is a serious claim where early independent and expert advice may save huge expense later on.

May we suggest that it is in your interest to co-operate with us to seek a solution along the remedies outlined above. The alternative, and please have no doubt about this, will be very expensive litigation in London. We are confident of winning such litigation since your
allegations of criminality are blatantly untrue and malicious.

We should also appreciate if you could formally respond as to whether you are voluntarily willing to name the source of the termsheet (with Secora) published by you in December 2007. If not we will have to resort to the courts for disclosure – which obviously will add to the costs of any action. We expressly reserve our right to claim for the consequential damage of the leaked/stolen termsheet but in the event the suitable remedies are agreed relating to the libels on TechCrunch our client may forgo suing on publication of the termsheet.

Can we hear from you within 14 days – in any event please acknowledge receipt via email to

Yours sincerely,

Our First Response:

Re: TechCrunch: Sam Sethi

Dear ________:

This firm represents TechCrunch, a U.S. weblog focusing on the technology sector. I am responding to your February 19, 2009 letter addressed to TechCrunch Editor Michael Arrington. As an initial matter, we disagree with all of your characterizations of the various comments listed in your letter that have been made on TechCrunch; rather your letter seeks to suppress open debate.

More importantly, however, TechCrunch is not susceptible to the jurisdiction of English courts, nor is it the obvious forum should your client choose to initiate litigation there. TechCrunch is an indelibly U.S. operation, whose servers are located in the U.S. It has no offices, leases or bank accounts in the United Kingdom. Moreover, it is not aware of any publication to third parties within your jurisdiction of the comments listed in your letter. If the statements of which your client complains were published at all within England and Wales, such publication was de minimus so as not to rise to the level of constituting a substantial tort. If we are mistaken and you know of anyone in England of Wales, other than your client its servants and agents, who read the TechCrunch postings listed in your letter, please let me know. In any event, the natural and appropriate forum for your client’s claims would be the State of California.

In addition to jurisdictional and forum issues, any English libel judgment against TechCrunch would not be recognized or enforced in the United States because we have the principal of freedom of speech guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and state constitutions. As you may be aware, U.S. courts will not recognize foreign libel judgments where “libel standards that are contrary to U.S. libel standards would be repugnant to the public policies of…the United States.” Matusevitch v. Telnikoff, 877 F. Supp. 1, 4 (D.DC.1995).

TechCrunch believes in freedom of speech and it will publish with equal prominence any reply that your client may wish to submit concerning the challenged statements listed in your February 19, 2009 letter. Please let me know if your client would like to submit such a statement.

Of course, if you have any questions or wish to discuss this further, please feel free to give me a call.

Sincerely,

Our Second Response:

Re: TechCrunch: Sam Sethi

Dear Mr. _______:

As you know, this firm represents TechCrunch, a U.S. weblog focusing on the technology sector. This letter follows up on our March 18, 2009 letter to you, in which we explained that TechCrunch is not susceptible to the jurisdiction of English courts and the proper forum for your client’s claims would be the State of California.

As also discussed in our March 18 letter, any English libel judgment against TechCrunch would not be recognized or enforced in the United States. American courts will not recognize foreign libel judgments where “libel standards that are contrary to U.S. libel standards would be repugnant to the public policies of… the United States.” Matusevitch v. Telnikoff, 877 F. Supp. 1, 4 (D.DC. 1995). As you may know, the California state senate unanimously passed SB320 last week, which would, as a matter of California statutory law, prohibit the enforcement of an English libel judgment against California residents such as Mr. Arrington and TechCrunch.

As for the statements concerning your client that you claim to be false in your February 19, 2009 letter, TechCrunch stands behind the truth of those statements. You principally complain of various statements in which TechCrunch reports that some of Mr. Sethi’s former writers at Blognation have accused him of dishonesty and fraud. Those statements are true. Former Blognation writers Oliver Starr, Nicole Simon, Debi Jones and Triona Carey have publicly and repeatedly accused your client of lying to them about Blognation’s funding and whether they would ever be paid for the work they
performed for Blognation. In a December 5, 2007 “open letter” to your client (http://owstarr.com/2007/12/05/an-open-letter-to-sam-sethi/), Mr. Starr makes various statements about Mr. Sethi, including:

• “This open letter details in very broad strokes the reasons why I have lost faith in Sam. It makes specific statements as to the veracity of things Sam has said or written as well as things he has failed to do. I do not say these things lightly. Every statement made in this letter can be backed up with verifiable written material from email correspondence, Skype chats, or SMS messages.”

• “At the end, this is a cautionary tale and the victims are the people that have worked for months on the content many of you have enjoyed but for which Sam Sethi has yet to (and may never) pay.”

• “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” and

• “Your big return, your blogging network, the content in every post, and nearly everything you’ve said or written about Blognation; it’s all based upon lies… And when that dirty truth leaks out – there won’t be anywhere on earth you can run where the truth won’t find you. (not to mention the lawsuits that are sure to follow close behind).”

In response to Mr. Starr’s open letter, Nicole Simon posted on the same day (see link above):

• “It saddens me to see this posting, but it is the correct, logical next step to take” and

• “The amount of people involved has the advantage of near complete documentation on all accounts, even though we come from different areas of
the world. I expect Sam to pay his bills.”

In December 6, 2007 posts in response to Mr. Sethi’s post on Global Neighborhoods, http://redcouch.typepad.com/weblog/2007/12/sam-sethi-repl.html, Debi Jones writes:

• “Sam just can’t keep himself from lying. It’s out of his control apparently. He contacted me in September and said that he wanted to wait until mid
October when he would have funding in the bank before he brought another editor aboard. About the second week of October when Sam told me that “the money was in the bank.” How does that become you’ll get paid when we get funding?”

Oliver Starr responded to Ms. Jones’ post on Global Neighborhoods (see link above):

• “As Debi points out in the post linked above, there is more than enough evidence to not only prove that what I have said is true but probably to
support criminal fraud charges.”

• “In addition to an email that demonstrates that Sam’s claims are false and that he said on multiple occasions that funds were in the bank, I have Skype transcripts from the Blognation Group Chat where Sam lies, contradicts himself and makes dozens of promises upon which he has yet to deliver.”.

In a December 7, 2007 post on MobileJones.com titled “Sam Sethi and the Blognation Funding Smoking Gun,” http://mobilejones.com/2007/12/07/sam-sethi-andthe-
blognation-funding-smoking-gun
, Debi Jones reports that

• “Finally, in his own words from a voice recording made on June 6, 2007, Sam is clearly heard to say, ‘Now, I’ve already raised one mil pounds and
I’m already budgeted for twenty-two full-time editors.’ So, if this is true, then why is no one paid? If this is not true, then why did he say it to the
editors he wished to recruit?”

• “As is documented in the previous post here, I did not join Blognation until October 21, 2007 and was told by Sam on joining that Blognation was
funded,” and

• “If Sam didn’t raise the money, then why did he say that he did? Many people would like to know. What say you now Sam?”

Ms. Jones also states in this post that Mr. Sethi’s claim that “all editors knew coming into [Blognation] that the project was seeking funding and would only be paid once we got that funding,” is a “lie.” “Sam stated Blognation had funding to cover the operation for one year when I agreed to join,” Ms. Jones states.

In a December 11, 2007 post on MobileJones.com titled “Sam Sethi blognation funding web of lies,” http://mobilejones.com/2007/12/11/sam-sethi-blognation-fundingweb-
of-lies/
, Debi Jones further reports:

• “Let me state the obvious and point out that today is December 11th and there’s been no word from Sethi on the checks he’s written or electronic
transfers completed to his beleaguered editors.

• Sethi does get one part of his quote to Jemima [Kiss] correct. All of those who joined Blognation have contracts and have the right to sue him.”
On December 5, 2007, The Digital Content Blog of Guardian.co.uk, (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/pda/2007/dec/05/isblognationfallingapart),
summarized an interview with Mr. Sethi where

“He gave me the name of the investor and said the money is due to come through on December 10th.

‘Anyone raising money knows that it takes time, and it can be a horrible business. It has taken four months to grow this idea to a brand. Every editor has a contract and has the right to sue me, but there are nine editors on the backchannel that are aware of what is happening with the funding.

At the end of the day, the two points are that he said he hasn’t been paid and that I have lied. It is true that the editors haven’t been paid, bar some goodwill payments but I haven’t lied about the funding.’”

In her December 14, 2007 post in he blog in “Observations from the Fireside”, titled “Sethi fraud was all Mike Arrington’s fault,”
http://rulabula.blogspot.com/2007/12/sethi-fraud-was-all-mike-arringtons.html, Triona Carey writes:

• “After a frenzied week of speculation around the blogosphere, Sam Sethi has finally thrown in the towel, and posted his resignation as CEO of
Blognation…” and

• “So, it seems not everybody was taken in by slimy Sam’s charm and posh shoes. For everybody’s sake I hope the last paragraph doesn’t come true -
serial entrepreneur my ass, more like serial cheat.”

These statements were made by and about Mr. Sethi more than 17 months ago, and covered in great detail in the blogosphere (both in the US and the UK), yet Sam Sethi never produced any additional investors or funding after he made these statements. Nor is TechCrunch aware that he ever paid these four former writers at Blognation. Simply put, there is not only an ample amount of factual support that some of Mr. Sethi’s former
writers have accused him of dishonesty and fraud, but also for the basis of those allegations.

As for your complaint in your February 19 letter about the statement in the November 5, 2007 blog titled “MyKinda Blog Network for Eastern Europe Launches Amid Serious Drama” that Mr. Sethi “had threatened to kill” his former business associate Lee Wilkins, you claim that Mr. Arrington “mischievously took a heated ‘off the cuff’ colloquial expression, from a confidential email, and dressed it up to appear as it
were a serious and criminally culpable threat to kill.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Arrington’s blog, http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/11/05/mykinda-blognetwork-
for-eastern-europe-launches-amid-serious-drama
, fully set out the text of Sam Sethi’s email so that readers could see the context in which the characterization was made:

“Will you fucking leave Danny and Saul out of this what have they got to do with this or I will come on the next flight and fucking rip your head off. If you have a grief it is with me and tristan. They are very busy people you idiot. Add that to your lawyers list and send over the docs asap pls.

Thanks in advance.”

Obviously, no reasonable reader of your client’s email or the November 5, 2007 blog as a whole could conclude that your client had actually made a “criminally culpable threat to kill” Mr. Wilkins.

There is no dispute that Mr. Sethi has harsh critics among former business associates. TechCrunch accurately reported the rise and fall of Blognation and fully disclosed its history with Mr. Sethi to its readers. In fact, the December 14, 2007 CrunchNote, “The Fact and Fiction of Sam Sethi,” http://www.crunchnotes.com/2007/
12/14/the-fact-and-fiction-of-sam-sethi/
, is a fair and accurate summary of Mr. Sethi’s background with TechCrunch and the disputes surrounding him and Blognation.

Should your client file a complaint for defamation concerning the matters set forth in your letter and a trial were to ever occur, the trier of fact would weigh Mr. Sethi’s credibility against that of Mr. Starr, Mses. Carey, Jones and Simon and any other former employees and business associates involved in Blognation. If Mr. Sethi has information that rebuts that claims of these four people, we again invite him, as we did in our March 18 letter to you, to provide TechCrunch with any reply that your client may wish to submit concerning the challenged statements listed in your February 19, 2009 letter. As we told you previously, TechCrunch will publish Mr. Sethi’s reply with equal prominence to its previous posts about him. You have since told me over the telephone that your client is not interested in submitting such a reply. Should your client change his mind and wish to submit such a statement, please let me know. Of course, if you have any questions or wish to discuss this further, please feel free to give me a call.

Sincerely,

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